And The Difference Between Eustress and Distress
(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)
Assume You Already Know The Final Score
If you read the last lesson – Don’t Worry, Be Happy… – you’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute; how can anyone be happy with so much uncertainty?”
I’ll tackle that in moment, but first let’s look quickly at stress and make sure we’re all on the same page here.
There are two types of stress: eustress and distress. Simply put, eustress is the “good stress” that motivates and enables us to enjoyably achieve our goals; while distress is the “bad stress” that can overtake eustress (if you allow it) where worry and tension gain the focus and the goals are forgotten or suddenly seem unattainable.
We experience eustress when there is something we want that requires sacrifice (preparing for a marathon or studying for an important certification), and we are largely in control of the outcome (we have time to study, for example).
Conversely, we experience distress when we begin to concern ourselves with outcomes for which we cannot or can no longer control (we’re walking into the exam that we didn’t prepare for).
Eustress is motivational and distress is depressing. Eustress is rational and distress is irrational. People experiencing eustress are happy; those experiencing distress are not.
Wait, isn’t distress a natural part of life? Only if you allow it. Of course, given that it’s irrational and depressing, why would you?
The best way to avoid unnecessary stress (like distress) is to always know the final score. Envision and “know” the outcome of something before it happens. For example, If you’re watching a sports report about last night’s game (which you enjoyed live) and the announcer is discussing the halftime score (where your team is down by 20 points), but you already know that your team ultimately wins the game, are you stressed about the halftime score? Of course not; because you know the final score.
Self doubts, anxieties, and fears are natural; but they shouldn’t become depressing or debilitating. Doing the right things, working hard at your relationships, listening to others, and eating shit sandwiches all lead to great outcomes.
These great outcomes are, in effect, the final score; and doing the right things ensures you know the final score no matter when the game ends. If not today, then tomorrow; so stressing over those things which you cannot control is a waste of time. Time, that you cannot get back. Spend your time on the happy thoughts, because you already know the final score.