Good Stress & Bad Stress -- Know the Difference

Ways to stay healthy under stress

July 1, 2014 | 2 min reading time

This article is 10 years old. It was published on July 1, 2014.

 If you are suffering from extreme stress or long-term stress, your body will eventually wear itself down.  But sometimes, small amounts of stress can actually be good.

Understanding your stress level is important.  If nothing in your life causes you any stress or excitement, you may become bored or may not be living up to your potential.  If everything in your life causes you stress, you may experience health or mental problems that will make your behavior worse.

Good stress helps us go about our daily tasks and achieve those hard-to-reach goals.  This type of stress, called eustress, helps us learn new things, adapt to change and engage in creative thinking.  Everyone experiences good stress on a daily basis.  Another form of good stress is the stress that enables us to survive in times of trauma.  This stress makes us aware of danger and enables us to escape when we need to.

Bad forms of stress do not help us achieve goals or tasks, but instead actually inhibit our ability to function on a daily basis.  Bad stress occurs when too much stress begins to build up around us.  Once the body feels there is too much stress, it will begin to break down, causing symptoms like perspiration, anxiety, headaches and rapid breathing.  This kind of stress can take a huge toll on your physical and mental well-being. 

Below are 10 ways to stay healthy under stress:

1.  Reduce caffeine intake.  Studies have shown that caffeine can increase levels of stress hormones.

2.  Take along some healthy food.  Don't suffer the consequences of missed meals and fat-laden fast food binges.

3.  Don't "treat" stress symptoms.  Treating your tiredness, lack of energy, anxiety or worries with alcohol, sedatives, stimulants, nicotine or other substances will only worsen the stress symptoms in the long run.

4.  Evaluate dietary supplements carefully.  Not everyone under stress needs supplemental vitamins and minerals.  Ask your doctor if you would benefit from dietary supplements.

5.  Eat breakfast.  Even if you're late for your first meeting, grab a bite to eat.  Stress amplifies our need for adequate fuel.  Your mood will improve too.

6.  Drink water.  Sipping water gives you something to do when nervous and might help you resist the urge for caffeine or junk food.

7.  Make sleep a priority.  Sleep provides essential rejuvenation time.  You may have to sacrifice social events or household chores, but don't skimp on sleep.

8.  Don't fall prey to denial.  If you are experiencing serious psychological or physical symptoms, don't just write them off.  Detect and diagnose problems early when they are treatable and manageable.

9.  Walk somewhere each day.  While you might not have time for a workout, you can emphasize walking in your daily schedule.  Just 10-15 minutes can help clear your head and improve your mood.

10.  Schedule medical and dental appointments.  Regular checkups and screenings are a must for those with stressful lifestyles.  Make appointments well in advance and plan your schedule around these appointments.


The Employee Assistance Program, available to City employees through BJC, may be reached at (314) 729-4030.

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