Good or bad stress? How to tell the difference
Not all stress is created equal

No matter your stage of life, it’s likely you’ve experienced stress at some point. It’s probably also likely that there were times when you felt the stress was easily managed, while at other times stress has become difficult to handle. This is because stress can be helpful – there are many times when stress can motivate you to achieve your goals. Too much stress, however can be dangerous and cause physical and mental health problems. It’s therefore important to be able to tell the difference between stress that is good for you, and stress that may lead to deeper concerns. 

Good Stress

Not all stress is bad – think about the last time you went through an exciting event. Examples include planning a wedding or party, or even the rush you’d have felt when first planning out your business. During events like these, the stress you feel helps you in a positive way – by motivating you to get the things you need to do done, and helping to keep your eye on the end goal. 

It doesn’t just have to be during an exciting time either – even in going about your day to day activities there is an optimum amount of stress most people need to function effectively. Without a minimum level of challenge and responsibilities our mood can feel flat and our energy levels low. However, this ‘good stress’, or as the experts call it, eustress, can turn into ‘bad’ stress if it is not managed properly or the symptoms become more severe.

Bad Stress

‘Bad stress’ essentially manifests when ‘good stress’ becomes unmanageable or the symptoms escalate. If left unchecked these symptoms can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It can also lead to mental health presentations including anxiety and depression. When stress becomes ‘bad stress’ you start to lose the benefits of eustress – for example, instead of feeling motivated you’re may have trouble concentrating.

Signs to look out for

Here are some signs that might indicate the stress you’re under is a little more than ‘eustress’ and that you may need to take some extra steps to help manage it:

  • Your physical wellbeing is being affected
     This might include symptoms such as trouble sleeping; stomach problems such as diarrhea, hair loss, loss of appetite and having minor accidents.
  • You can’t pinpoint a reason for your stress 
     Rather than your stress being caused by a big project you may feel like every part of your life is wearing you downand you may feel overwhelmed.
  • Techniques intended to help manage stress are not working
    If you’ve taken steps to help get your stress symptoms under control yet nothing feels like it has worked.
  • You generally feel down all the time
    You feel you are managing life well but still feel low in energy, have a flat mood or feel anxious.

Importance of seeking help

If any of the above seem familiar to you, then it may indicate the stressors you’re dealing with are more than you can handle on your own. No matter how minor or major your stress might seem, talking to a trusted colleague or friend is always a worthwhile exercise. Whether it’s to gain a fresh perspective, or just to talk through your feelings, a conversation with someone you know and trust can be beneficial.   Whilst your GP is a valuable source of support, a professional counsellor could be another good place to start.

Professional support for you and your business

Aon is proud to be partnering with LifeWorks to provide an affordable counselling and support program to optimise your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your employees.  LifeWorks can help you focus on day to day operations, knowing your employees have professional counselling support when they need it most. Visit aon.com.au/lifeworks to find out more or download a brochure.

Subscribe to SME Talk

Aon has taken care in the production of this article and the information contained in it has been obtained from sources that Aon believes to be reliable. Aon does not make any representation as to the accuracy of the information received from third parties and is unable to accept liability for any loss incurred by anyone who relies on it. The recipient of this article is responsible for their use of it. This information is intended to provide general insurance related information only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, nor does it, or should it (under any circumstances) be construed as constituting legal advice. You should seek independent legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the contents of this information. Aon will not be responsible for any loss, damage, cost or expense you or anyone else incurs in reliance on or use of any information contained in this article.