Distinguish Between Positive and Negative Stress with Examples of Each

On this page we distinguish between positive and negative stress. We also give more then one examples of each kind.

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Stress, a universal human experience, can be categorized into two main types: positive stress (eustress) and negative stress (distress). Understanding the distinction between these two can help us navigate our responses to various situations more effectively.


Here’s a table that distinguishes between positive and negative stress, including examples of each:

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Type of StressCharacteristicsImpactExamples
Positive Stress (Eustress)Short-term;
Perceived as within one’s coping abilities; Motivates and focuses energy.
Enhances performance;
Promotes personal growth and satisfaction.
– Preparing for a wedding
– Starting a new job or promotion
– Competing in sports
– Meeting a project deadline
Negative Stress (Distress)Chronic;
Exceeds one’s coping abilities;
Feels overwhelming and unpleasant.
Reduces performance;
Can lead to health problems and decreased well-being.
– Persistent work overload
– Ongoing financial difficulties
– Chronic illness or injury
– Prolonged relationship conflicts
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Positive Stress (Eustress)

Positive stress, or eustress, refers to stress that is perceived as beneficial or motivating. It’s the kind of stress that pushes us to perform better, enhances our productivity, and can lead to personal growth and satisfaction. Eustress is typically short-term and feels exciting. It helps improve our performance by motivating us to tackle challenges head-on.

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Examples of Positive Stress:

  • Preparing for a significant event like a wedding or a major celebration.
  • Starting a new job or promotion that offers more responsibility and opportunity.
  • Participating in competitive sports or activities that challenge you physically or mentally.
  • Meeting a tight deadline for a project that you’re passionate about.

Negative Stress (Distress)

Negative stress, or distress, occurs when the demands placed on us exceed our ability to cope. It can be chronic, leading to a prolonged state of anxiety, and can have detrimental effects on our health, productivity, and overall well-being. Distress often feels overwhelming and unpleasant, reducing our performance and leading to feelings of being unable to manage or escape our situation.

Examples of Negative Stress:

  • Persistent work overload without adequate support or relief.
  • Ongoing financial difficulties that seem to have no immediate solution.
  • Chronic illness or injury that significantly alters one’s lifestyle and capabilities.
  • Relationship conflicts or the loss of a loved one, leading to prolonged grief or depression.
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Key Distinctions

  • Perception and Outcome: Positive stress is often perceived as a challenge that is within our capacity to overcome, leading to personal growth and achievement. In contrast, negative stress is perceived as a threat or burden beyond our capacity to manage, often resulting in feelings of helplessness or defeat.
  • Duration: Positive stress is usually short-lived and specific to an event or situation, providing motivation that dissipates once the goal is achieved. Negative stress can be long-term, arising from situations that seem endless or uncontrollable.
  • Impact on Health: While positive stress can enhance our mental and physical health by encouraging resilience and adaptation, negative stress can deteriorate our health, leading to issues like anxiety, depression, cardiovascular diseases, and a weakened immune system.
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Understanding these distinctions helps in managing stress effectively, aiming to maximize the instances of positive stress in our lives while finding healthy ways to cope with or minimize negative stress.

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