Stress Awareness: How to Know If It’s Good for Growth or Not

April is National Stress Awareness Month. So, it’s the perfect time to increase public awareness about how to identify it, as well as pinpoint its causes and cures.

Now, as quiet as it’s kept, stress doesn’t come in merely one form. There are at least three different kinds: eustress, acute and chronic. Eustress is our body’s response to excitement and euphoria. It’s normally referred to as “good stress.” Think of your first kiss or getting invited to have dinner with the President.

Acute stress is our body’s response to an immediate trigger (positive or negative), but subsides after we address it. Think of walking through a dark alley and hearing fast-paced footsteps behind you.

Finally, chronic stress is constant and intense, which makes us feel trapped and overwhelmed. Think of a strained marriage or workplace bullying.

But simply knowing the different kinds of stress to look for is not enough. “Even though we’ve learned a lot about stress in the past twenty years,”says Dr. Morton C. Orman, M.D., Founder and Director of the Heather Resources Network, “we’ve got a long way to go. This is why devoting resources to a focused campaign promoting overall stress education for the public is such a worthwhile endeavor.

If you’re wondering whether the stress you’re feeling is useful or detrimental to your well-being, take a closer look. Consider the following scenarios to determine whether the stress you’re experiencing is good for growth or not.

1. Your stress does not subside.

If you’re constantly feeling stressed over long periods without sufficient recovery, that’s definitely a red flag. While stress is a natural part of our lives and some types are unavoidable (acute, for example), if you’re consistently bombarded by feelings of doom, overwhelm and anxiety, your well-being could be in serious jeopardy. Tip: Watch out for tell-tale signs–mentally and physically–that protracted stress can cause.

2. It’s negatively affecting your livelihood and relationships.

When stress becomes toxic, it can affect your ability to effectively function at work or in your interpersonal relationships. Tips: Watch for signs of decreased or poor performance. Notice if you seem negative, irritable or short when dealing with others. But don’t be defensive if you receive feedback. Be open to positive ways that can help you address it.

3.  It makes you feel focused and energized.

All stress isn’t bad. The desire to complete a goal can easily be fueled by stress. That doesn’t mean the process will be easy or without challenges. What does matter, though, is how you feel while navigating it. So, tune in. Chances are you’re feeling challenged and empowered, which is great for growth.

4. It helps keep you mindful and on track.

Stress can be an effective tool, if you use it to your advantage. For example, sometimes the stress of an impending deadline or engaging in the daily action necessary to reach a mammmoth goal, will provide the focus and inspiration required to avoid disappointment or worse. That’s the power of choice. You just have to use it.

Hopefully most the the stress you’re feeling is good for growth. But, if not, don’t be discouraged. You can find out more about stress–its causes and cures–as well as valuable resources to help you navigate it here.

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici via

Karima Mariama-Arthur

Karima Mariama-Arthur is founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport (, a boutique consulting firm located in Washington, D.C. which specializes in professional development. She consults individuals and organizations on the dynamics of complex communication and high-performance leadership competence.

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