The Difference Between Positive and Negative Stress

Did you know that there are two different types of stress? The first one is called positive stress or eustress, while the second is called negative stress or distress. 

From the names alone, you can already determine that eustress can positively impact people, while distress can cause trouble or issues to some individuals if it persist. Make sure that you know the major differences between the two, as each type requires a different approach for stress management.

In this article, we are going to provide a comprehensive discussion about both positive and negative stress. Our ultimate goal is to encourage you to become more aware of the stressors in your lives and eventually help you become better at identifying and handling eustress and distress. Curious and want to learn more? Continue reading.

What is Eustress?

We all experience stress, this is no surprise. However, everyone experiences it differently depending on the situation or circumstance. Remember that stress does not always have to be bad. There are times when stress may be good or beneficial for someone. 

Eustress, also known as good stress or positive stress, connotes something positive. It refers to a body’s response of feeling excited or happy due to various reasons. Some of the common causes for a person to feel eustress include:

  • Getting married;
  • Going on a hiking or trekking activity for the first time; 
  • Buying a new car or a new house;
  • Receiving a promotion at work; 
  • Giving birth; or 
  • Spending holidays with loved ones at a travel destination. 

You can think of something that will yield a positive end result, even though the process might cause momentary discomfort.

What Is Distress? 

On the other hand, distress, also commonly known as negative stress or bad stress, refers to the body’s response to feeling agitated, tense, or anger due to specific stressors. Among the common negative stressors include:

  • Bankruptcy or closure of a business;
  • Death; 
  • Having an altercation with someone;
  • Or being in an unhappy relationship;
  • Being in an unhappy work environment; 
  • Too much demand from school or work; or
  • Unproductivity at work or in business.

Characteristics of Positive and Negative Stress

Always remember that the term “stress” does not always carry a negative connotation. It may also refer to a positive response to specific situations and circumstances. 

Positive stress is characterized by excitement and happiness. When you go through this type of stress you are more often than not motivated or inspired to move forward. As a result, you may thrive better and increase your chances of performing better. 

Conversely, negative stress can be associated with feelings of anxiety or tension. This leads to encountering problems in the short and long term. 

Take note that positive stress is always classified as short-term, which means that the positive stressors may only have a limited time of effect on a person. However, negative stress may be short-term and/or long-term, depending on your coping abilities. 

So what are some signs we can look out for in order to approach positive stressors gracefully?

Moving Out of the Comfort Zone

In the early part of this article, we discussed the fact that everyone has unique experiences when it comes to distress and eustress. To better understand this, allow us to present this illustration below:

comfort zone

As you can see, the innermost circle shows the Comfort Zone, where a person feels safe and in control of everything. Imagine that you are this person. 

Since you are in the Comfort Zone, a big part of you is hesitant to move forward to the Fear Zone. You will always be afraid of what is on the other side. For this reason, you tend to find excuses about your refusal to leave your Comfort Zone. At the same time, you also entertain self-limiting beliefs or the opinions of people around you. 

Nonetheless, if you still choose to leave your Comfort Zone to move to the Fear Zone and eventually aim to move out of the latter, then you can start to get more learning opportunities. Once you enter the Learning Zone, you will begin to acquire new skills or knowledge. All these will help you gain a better understanding or approach on how to solve your stressors. 

After persevering at the Learning Zone, you will reach the Growth Zone, where you may begin to realize your aspirations and live life to the fullest. Of course, you must not stop at this level. And the cycle starts all over again, you have to keep on dreaming and setting new goals for yourself, keep expanding your Comfort Zone.  


At this point, you have already seen the differences between negative and positive stress. Regardless of what type of stress you are going through, it is crucial that you remain level-headed when it comes to handling stress regardless of whether it is positive or negative. 

Let positive stress help you move out of your comfort zone. Take advantage of having the ability to solve stress in the easiest way possible. On the other hand, if you are going through negative stress, do not worry as there are several ways to handle it. 

Stress management, again whether positive or negative, is something that you can practice. 

In our next article, we will discuss the Top 4 ways to deal with negative stress.

Until then, Peace + Love,

The Grove Campus Team