Is All Stress Bad?

The fight-or-flight response is part of the general adaptation syndrome, defined in 1936 by Canadian biochemist Hans Selye, of McGill University in Montreal. He published his revolutionary findings in a simple seventy-four-line article in Nature, in which he defined two types of “stress”: eustress (good stress) and distress (bad stress).

Once our bodies alarm is set off it releases cortisol, our body becomes mobilized and ready for action. But there has to be a physical release of fight or flight, otherwise, cortisol levels build up in the body, which wreaks havoc on your mind and body.

Eustress creates a “seize-the-day” heightened state of arousal, which is invigorating and often linked with a tangible goal. Cortisol levels return to normal once completion of the task. Distress, or anxiety doesn’t provide an outlet for the cortisol, and causes that fight-or-flight mechanism to backfire. Ironically, our own biology, which was designed to ensure our survival as hunters and gatherers, is sabotaging our bodies and minds in a sedentary digital age.