One of the most useful things I learned in college was that there are two kinds of stress (the body’s response to life’s taxing demands): eustress, coined by Dr. Hans Selye, and distress.Eustress or ‘good’ stress is motivating while distress is immobilizing. Eustress can quickly become distress or vise-versa, and we have a choice as to which one we will allow to have control.
The past year has found me taking care of and moving my parents both of whom are having memory problems. Needless to say there are multitudes of decisions and responsibilities. While eustress was my companion allowing me to get a lot done, distress was always looking over my shoulder and at times I must admit I succumbed to it. I would find myself overwhelmed and curled in fetal position sobbing my woes. I felt angry and sorry for myself being in the situation, and helpless to stop the changes I witnessed in my parents. At those times I remembered a synonym for distress is grief.
After a good cry, I would ask, “What’s one thing I can do to get me moving?”
Something as small as getting my mom a cup of coffee would uncurl my body and get me moving again. I’m grateful for my understanding of both types stress, and knowing I can choose which one I will allow.