Understanding stress

Good Stress vs. Bad Stress: What’s the Difference?

When was the last time you heard someone say “Lately I’ve been so stressed, but I’ve never been better!”? Even though you may tend to think of stress as something negative, some stress in life is normal – and can even be helpful.

I once saw a Facebook posting that said, “If five years from now everything in your life was the same, you’d be upset.” How true is that?!

But why does one stressful situation motivate you, while another demanding circumstance seems to suck the energy right out of you, leaving you feeling drained?

Why Some Stress is Debilitating

Leadership Forgiveness

Stress can become debilitating when your resources – time, money, skill level – cannot possibly accommodate the expectation and you do not renegotiate the expectation. In a previous post, I talked about how some very successful people succumb to preventable health conditions because they don’t recognize or don’t respond to the signs of negative stress.

You probably recognize that eating healthy and exercising regularly are two critical components in reducing stress and living a balanced lifestyle. However, for most of us, these things tend to go out the window when life gets really hectic. When stress management is left out of that equation, you place yourself at risk of overexposure to stress hormones – causing unseen catastrophic damage to your body and your peace of mind.

When you feel like you’re up against an enormous amount of stress but don’t do anything to manage it, all that pressure eventually boils over and manifests in many negative ways. The APA reports that chronic stress – the kind that happens when someone can’t see a way out of a negative situation – can lead to suicide, violence, heart attacks, and other devastating health conditions.

Dr. Elson Haas of care2.com says in an article that we do have at least some control over how we allow stress to affect our lives. When your resources are stretched too thin and can no longer meet the expectation or circumstance, you have two choices:

  • Renegotiate the expectation.
  • Leave things status-quo.

If you remember that change is the very essence of life and seek out new ways to renegotiate the expectation, you can turn that debilitating stress into something that catapults you into new levels of success and accomplishment.

Stress Can be a Motivator

When your resources are stretched in meeting the expectation, stress can be a motivator, causing you to become fully engaged and capable of developing creative solutions.

Think about how you deal with change – do you embrace the opportunities change offers? Or would you rather ignore it? Are you someone who puts off change as long as possible, only “accepting” it when you see no alternative? By altering the way you respond to change, you can learn to use stressful situations as opportunities for new growth.

Even in the best of situations, there will occasionally be times when things don’t go exactly as planned, and you must renegotiate the situation. This may involve you getting honest with yourself or someone else, delegating tasks, or meeting with a trusted friend or mentor to help you get things back on the right track.

Understanding stress

How our Values Relate to Stress

You will often feel stressed when you are not living according to your values. For instance, you may value harmony in relationships, but you keep getting sucked into bickering with a friend or family member. Or, even though you value health and wellness, you find yourself frequently grabbing fast food on the go because of your hectic schedule.

When you live in a way that causes you to become misaligned with your values, the internal conflicts that result produce the reaction we know as stress. Reevaluate your values, prioritize, and make a commitment to live authentically and in alignment with what matters most to you.

I am in a constant process of evaluating my commitments in regard to how they align with my values. I have a bad habit of over committing myself and this has devastating consequences if I don’t quickly rectify the situation. This at times involves going back to someone, letting them know I made an error in judgment and have to take back or renegotiate my commitment.

It feels uncomfortable at first but the reality is if I don’t respond right away the discomfort only intensifies. And when it’s done, it’s done and a weight lifts from my shoulders.

And always remember, as Heraclitus said, “The only constant is change.”

In subsequent posts I’ll be covering stress prevention and management, so stay tuned for lots of helpful tips!

Tell us, how has stress motivated you in the past? Was there ever a time where you were able to take a stressful situation that initially seemed debilitating and channel it into an opportunity for positive growth?


  1. Karen Osburn

    Stress being the result of not living aligned with your core values is HUGE, Jodi, and so happy to see you blog about this. All stress is absolutely not bad, but your actions not lining up with who you are and what you stand for is a big lesson for everyone to learn. Thank you!

  2. Maritza Parra

    I actually enjoy stress sometimes, whenever I’m going to be doing a big horse show event, it helps me to prepare, knowing there’s a deadline and do my best. Jodi, Love your distinction between bad and good stress and oh yes, I’ve experienced the bad stress of over committing. Looking forward to your posts about managing the bad stress.

  3. fitJaime

    I have MS and I was told to reduce stress… I quit working full time and became an Entrepreneur!! Haha — not exactly taking the doctor’s orders, but I believe that my choices allowed me to enter the right kind of stress. The kind of stress that fuels rather than detracts!
    Thanks for the insight!

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