Eustress: Is this Type of Stress Good for You to Push for Excellence?

Foreign talents relocating to Silicon Valley may feel intimidated by the environment they’re in. Think about it. The tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google, to name a few, hold office and sway here. One is surrounded by talented people in their own right. There’s no need to be stressed by it, though, because the mere fact that they also made it here should assure them of their abilities and capabilities. 

Global mobility managers need to assure their talents that it’s not their job that is making them stressful, it’s what others control over them — deadlines, work fatigue, production issues, corporate politics, which they can avoid or ignore. Stress in this case is not stress that causes people to rile against the world, it’s the other facets of work that make us feel stressed.

What do we know about stress? People facing hardship easily jump to identifying any form of hardship as stressful, a negative reaction that doesn’t do anything to solve a problem. All we hear is that it’s bad for us. However, the emphasis on stress as only being a negative reaction is now under scrutiny, especially when some stresses reportedly have the opposite outcome. They push us to be better. It is called “eustress,” the prefix for well or good from ancient Greek.

Stress has always had a bad rap, but it turns out that stress can push us to excellence.  Daniela Kaufer, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley was quoted by The Guardian as saying that any “stress response is crucial to any person’s survival. It elevates performance, is super-important for alertness and prepares you to adapt to the next thing that comes along.”

For some people learning new concepts such as a programming language or simply improving their lives and career such as public speaking, eustress helps our brain adjust to the hard information it’s receiving. Even relocating talents can feel one of the most common sources of stressors — moving to a new place. 

Eustresses aim to prepare us to be ready. Global mobility managers need to put themselves in the shoes of foreign talents who may feel immense stress or pressure from performing to the best of their abilities. They must know eustresses are part of anyone’s growth. These examples are common eustresses: the job promotion; getting engaged or marrying someone; going on a vacation; playing chess; solving crossword puzzles, the birth of a child.

The negative aspect of stress — the threatening one — is subjective;  one feels stressed and so they must be. Studies point to how people undergo faster cellular aging when stressed out. However, Kaufer said that a situation of eustress rather than distress bolstered the levels of the hormone oxytocin and its receptions — a response that saw rats seek more social support. “They (animals) start snuggling together and they share resources.” 

So it’s really crucial to perceive stress in the right manner. Mindfulness or reframing to avoid certain situations do wonders. Elevating mood along with a healthy diet and exercise is helpful, too. The year 2020 will see many people being more mindful, so it can overcome the stress of their environment. 

But what does one do when emotions affect us? Getting used to emotions and learning to leave them alone rather than trying to overmanage them is crucial. Self-reliance helps us overcome our emotions and ignore stress that’s bad for us. Emotional intelligence is key.

Her research has found that the energy and arousal associated with eustress can combat fatigue. She says people with “indicators of eustress – feeling happy or experiencing more meaningfulness during the workday – generally experienced lower levels of fatigue overall.”

As they say, without challenge comes boredom. A life with zero stress is not a life worth living.