Ever Heard of Eustress? Hans will be so upset . . .

in Over Tea . . .

Ok, so get this: the word “stress” is 100% made up. Dr. Hans Selye created the word in 1926 to talk about how external things effect our bodies. However, the word was not meant to be used alone. It was supposed to have a prefix: either “Eu” or “Dys” in front of it.

Eu = good  – – – Dys = bad

For example, Euphoria means good feeling; Dysphoria means bad feeling. Likewise, Selye desired these prefixes to be included to create a distinction betwixt the two types of  stressors: Eustress (good stress, builds up and makes you stronger) and Dystress (bad stress, breaks you down and makes you weaker).

This distinction implies a threshold or tipping point where eustress becomes dystress and vice-versa. Think about sprinting. Sprinting a 100 meters 3-6 times with a minute or two rest in between a couple times a week will give most everyone a bit of muscle, some increased speed and deserved swagger. But sprint 30-60 times with 12 seconds rest in between every day and you will end up in the hospital. Clearly, somewhere along the way, these bouts of exercise went from being eustress and became dystress.

This bring up the million dollar question: where is that threshold? Well, it is completely different for each and every person. And it changes based on the time of day. It differs every day, every month, every season and every year. As you age it changes. As your mood changes this threshold re-calibrates. The food you eat and the thoughts you think will make that ever-moving target bandy about. Yes, I said “bandy about.”

Its gets better too: every organ system from muscular to cardiovascular to endocrine to immune all have these moving thresholds for every individual and collective function and structure.

Please don’t get overwhelmed! The answer, as with most everything in this world, is inside you . . . and you alone. If you get quiet and listen . . . and be honest about what you hear . . . these thresholds become shockingly apparent. Through paying attention to your body’s signals will you learn where these threshold are and your ability to stay on the eustress side of the equation will be effortless. This internal awareness is where many secrets are held. But more on that another day . . .

For now, when you are at the gym and Pat Benetar’s “Love is a Battlefield” comes on the iPod (you heard me) and some Crazy-Hot-Spandex-Clad Adonis or She-Ra throws you a wink and you decide to power through 57 more pull ups . . . stop. Instead, listen to what your body is telling you. Do you want to push through for the sake of building yourself stronger/happier? Or because critical eyes are watching you? Or because you are guilty about the pizza/ice cream you ate last night? Or . . . ? Many thresholds, many things to ponder . . . thankfully you have your entire lifetime to sort these things out.

If nothing else, whenever you ask someone how they are and they say, “Stressed,” tell them about Hans Selye and how we want to have stressors in our lives. We just want to be Eustressed.

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