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How to transform distress into eustress to fuel performance

We often think of the feeling of the bodily sensations associated with stress and anxiety as negative. When our intention is to focus on an important project or to simply relax, it is certainly not pleasant to feel our hearts and minds race at a hundred miles an hour. Instead of allowing feelings of stress and anxiety to take over us, we can leverage them as our body’s internal motivation boosters.

The negative feeling of stress we feel is called distress. It is our body’s way of helping us avoid or reduce a threat. But did you know there is also a positive stress response? It’s called eustress.


Eustress is our body’s way of preparing us to take advantage of an opportunity. It boosts our energy, motivating us to take on a challenge or keep pushing forward with that difficult task.

It was the butterflies in your stomach just before you asked your partner out on a first date. Or perhaps that surge of excitement when you finally made the decision to commit to a new workout plan or take the first step to starting the project or business you’ve been dreaming of.

When our intention and our reality are not in alignment, the brain interprets this as a signal that action is needed.

To close the gap between where we are and where we want to be, the body prepares for action by releasing the right chemicals and re-directing the activities of our systems towards a focus on physical action. We “feel” stress chemicals wash over us, making it seem as if they just sprung out of nowhere. Understanding the reason behind the stress response — the body’s desire to protect itself — helps us recognize that we play a much larger role in determining our feelings than we think.


What determines whether we experience the body’s response as positive or negative (eustress vs distress)? Our mental framing. The thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions we have about the stress factor determine whether we’ll experience despair or a boost of motivation.

If someone asked you to make a presentation in front of 200 people in a week from today, would you feel distress or eustress? While many might freeze up and feel stress, there are also some of us that would be excited about this opportunity. What’s the difference between the person who feels distress and eustress as a result of the same exact stimulus? The way they perceive it.

Seeing a situation as a potential threat leads to distress while seeing it as an opportunity leads to eustress.

Reframing situations from potential threats to opportunities is the key principle of turning stress into excitement.

Here are 3 concepts to consider to implement this principle and use your excitement as the motivation to fuel your endeavors.


What are some of the things that are causing you the most stress and anxiety right now? Are they related to your most essential needs? Do you have food and shelter right now? You are blessed with the ability to be reading this right now, so your mind must be sharp enough to consciously process any information that can help you transform your life for the better.

Whatever external objects or experiences that you think you need in your life can be re-framed into projects. You can make a conscious decision to turn your challenges into opportunities.

Every action you take can be thought of as a means for you to grow, to express the strengths you already have within. Your challenges can be turned into the fertile ground for practicing whatever character traits you’ve been wanting to cultivate — such as patience, self-discipline, or focus.


What feels better: working on a project or fixing a problem? Working on projects to bring something new and exciting into your life is empowering — you are responding instead of reacting. Fixing a problem may bring feelings of powerlessness and victimization associated with thoughts such as “this shouldn’t be happening.”

Working on a project allows your inner resources to flow through you while the mental resistance associated with fixing a problem often stops you from seeing opportunities as they arise.

Can you reframe your current problems into projects?

Think about the last time you were excited about working on something that would open up new possibilities for you. How did you feel when you initially started on the project? Over time, the excitement may have waned. Your end goal may not have changed but you may have forgotten about your initial vision.


Re-ignite your excitement by remembering why you set a certain goal in the first place.

As you encounter obstacles, think about how resolving them will help you with your end goal.

Correlate each obstacle you are facing in life with the goal that it may be hindering you from achieving.

  • How will you need to think or act differently in order to continue heading in the direction of your goal?

  • Can you re-frame the obstacle as a project in itself?

  • How could this project help you grow as a person?

  • Could the skills you gain apply in other areas of your life?

You have the power to turn stress into excitement right now. You can be your own source of motivation. All you have to do is shift your perspective. Make a conscious decision now to think a new thought — that’s where the inner alchemy begins.


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