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Stress Awareness Blog

Stress and Distress

Stress is the body’s response to an external pressure.  Stressors usually involve events over which we have little control, perceived threats, or experiencing something new and unexpected.  When we react badly to these events, we experience “distress”, more commonly referred to as “stress.”

Workplace stressors can include giving presentations, completing a big deal, and being promoted.

The effect of distress is well known – the inability to focus, constantly feeling on edge, and becoming overwhelmed by tasks that ordinarily would not be taxing to us.  Adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, builds up and leads to physical and mental exhaustion meaning that even simple tasks can feel unsurmountable.


However, it’s not all bad…  In 1975 Dr Hans Selye coined the term “eustress”1, to explain a positive reaction to stressors.  Eustress is feeling a little pressure, enough to spur you on, but not so much that you are swept away by it.  It is taking that first ride without stabilisers or nudging the speed up on the treadmill each week.

Harnessing Eustress

Successfully undertaking stressful activities in controlled manner can a result in a personal morale boost and a sense of achievement.  Within the workplace this can improve personal productivity, increase job satisfaction, and lead to innovative ideas.

1 Selye (1975) “Confusion And Controversy In The Stress Field” Journal of Human Stress

For advice on managing your employees and for HR training courses please contact Tom Evans at


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