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Moving From Distress to Eustress

88% of leaders report that work is a primary source of stress. What if stress is good for you?

These are stressful times. We’d love to avoid or prevent crisis and tragedy. But there’s nothing like stress to bring you to life.

Meaningful stress makes life worthwhile.


The English Oxford Dictionary defines “Eustress” as moderate or normal psychological stress interpreted as being beneficial for the experiencer.

The alertness you feel during an important meeting or conversation is eustress.

“Eustress helps us stay motivated, work toward goals, and feel good about life.” Dr. Michael Genovese

Why we get stessed:

  1. Incompetence.
  2. Lack of preparation.
  3. Lack of control. A forced retirement is stressful, for example.
  4. Exhaustion.
  5. Sickness
  6. Death.
  7. Tragedy or trauma.
  8. Lack of sleep.
  9. Lack of support.
  10. Feeling judged; over-concern about the opinion of others.
  11. Long commutes.
  12. Workload.

Good stress:

#1. Challenge.

Challenge that focuses your attention, talent, and energy, but doesn’t overwhelm, is useful stress.

Actions and situations that aren’t stressful aren’t challenges.

#2. Novelty.

Trying new things increases learning and expands potential. Being a rookie is good stress as long as you don’t mind screwing up or looking foolish.

Ego – over-concern for image – magnifies stress. Humility makes stress useful.

#3. Change

All growth requires change.

Experiences that force you to adapt instigate growth. Actively avoiding stress is self-defeating.

Stress precedes growth.

The American Institute of Stress says good stress helps you grow. Anyone who goes to the gym understands that stress expands capacity.

Organizational change is often resisted. When resistance is successful, organizations stagnate and die. The problem occurs when change is forced on you.

Humility transforms distress to growth.

When you hear someone complain, “I’m stressed out,” ask, “Is it good stress or bad stress?”

Stress tip: Attitude is a tipping point between good stress and bad stress.

What stresses leaders?

How might leaders turn distress into good stress?

Bonus material:

The Stress of Leadership (CCL)

How Attitude can Reduce Your Stress (Duke)

Eustress: The Good Stress (Healthline)

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