The Good and Bad Stress: April 4, 2019

It can cause headaches, stomach aches, high blood pressure, and an increased heart rate. “About 33 percent of patients that suffer from stress don’t even mention it to their primary care physician,” said Dr. Jennifer Carrion, a resident physician with Lee Health.

But not all stress is bad.  “A lot of people actually don’t know that stress can be good for you. There are two different types of stress. There’s something called U-stress, or your good stress, and distress, basically your bad stress,” explained Dr. Carrion.

Many of us can identify the bad stress—with negative thoughts, tension, even lack of sleep. But doctors say the good stress can cause excitement and motivation. “If you’re having a new job or opening a new business or anything like that, that can still be considered good stress for you. Bad stress, that’s any sort of stress that occurs from something that is negative for you or actually is outside of your coping mechanisms,” she said.

But even good stress can cause unhealthy coping skills like binge eating, drinking, or smoking. “The way that we’re taught to deal with stress growing up might not be the right way to deal with stress,” said Dr. Carrion.

Doctors suggest trying daily exercises like deep breathing, yoga, or physical activity to help you develop healthier coping skills for stress.  “Start by taking time for yourself in a place that’s quiet, a void of any sort of distraction, and just pause. Learning how to count to ten and take a deep breath out and then count to five and take a deep breath in, focusing on your lungs expanding and your thoughts that are going along with that,” she said.

Understanding what causes your good and bad stress can help you better manage how you react.