What is Eustress?

Summary: When forging a healed life, it is important to plan for eustress. Humans need to build resilience to gain the benefits that eustress offers. After defining eustress, look at the various ways it translates to reality, and learn how to build resilience by leveraging eustress to your advantage.

Can you imagine a symptom-free life? It’s possible, but it doesn’t come without it’s own challenges.

Learning how to effectively listen to the body can keep you on a symptom-free path. The TBM lifestyle frees up a lot of time and effort that was formerly spent on suffering and dealing with the effects of pain. Here comes another split in the road. Do you walk the conservative path and revel in the achieved results? Did you come this far to only go this far? Or…

Feeling the Lion’s Roar

Do you feel the lion’s roar inside to push past the old zoo cages into the wild? Mind you, it’s safer in the zoo. The meals are provided in a timely manner. You don’t need skill or patience and stamina to eat out of a bowl pushed through the door. There are no predators or threat of poachers in the zoo, locked away solitary in the cage. You can sleep under the same stars in the confines as you do in the plains. There’s room to exercise but not to roam.

Should the lion trade his safe abode to regain his royal throne? The king of the jungle is only slightly less impressive behind the bars of captivity. Of course, he’ll lose his trusty admirers when he walks the valleys alone. For all the things he just lost in the scenario, what did he gain? I’m going somewhere with this.

What is Gained in the Wild?

The lion gains the wild. He gains the chance to run thousands of acres, or more, at his whim. He can lay under whatever tree he desires. Or he can roar and listen as the native birds silence to hear his majesty carry for miles. He will reacclimate his natural instincts to efficiently stalk and hunt. The reintegration could result in some missed meals and scratches, but a meal worked for is so much tastier. No more thawed steaks, just warm fresh meat ripped between wild teeth.

He may find a pride that accepts him as their male, but if not, he could live a solitary and dangerous life. Maybe he will watch his cubs grow into lions and lionesses or maybe he’ll just die, having lost his Saharan survival instincts. Of course, there would have been a reintroduction to the wild process. This reintroduction would be where he went out and came back to shelter while on the path to total freedom.

Becoming the “Lion”

Like the lion, you can rediscover the wild heart that life has beat down through trauma and suffering. Unlike the lion, the options aren’t survival and death. Your options might look like following dreams you laid down when an autoimmune disorder took away your mobility.

Your options could look like entrepreneurship after decades in an office or on an assembly line. Maybe you have always wanted to rock climb, horseback ride, travel internationally, or any other amazing thing your heart could have imagined. You might have rejected these dreams because you were stuck in fight, flight, freeze responses, unrested and untested.

What is Eustress?

Let’s look at Merriam-Webster’s definition:

eu·​stress ˈyü-ˌstres a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being1

When we use the word stress we are actually referring to distress, a stress that leaves us worse off for having experienced it. In it’s wake we need to find a way to rebuild and recover or its affects will linger indefinitely and lessen or resilience. While this form stress, distress, can be frustrating and impede progress, the paradox is that the body needs eustress in order to rebuild our physiology. You can’t lean back, kick your legs up, grab the soda and snacks that got you where you’ve come from, and expect the results to remain.

Unfortunately, people have a tendency to return to what’s comfortable and familiar. Comfortable and familiar with an illness or symptoms is not a place to go back to. But people don’t pick up chronic pain and autoimmune disease, they go back to the environment that created the problem. If a person does that, they will experience the same results and then wonder what happened.

The body is always moving in one direction or another. Either you are moving towards increased resilience, stamina, and efficiency, or you are moving the opposite way towards despair, fragility, and incompetence. There isn’t gray area. Without eustress, you will degenerate on physical, emotional, and other levels. Exposure to eustress is vital to continued forward healing movement.

Eustress Examples

Eustress can look like buying a brand-new home for one person and an extreme fixer-upper for another. Notice the extremes. One person can handle a new home but not the stress of things being busted or breaking. The other person wants the challenge of rehabilitating a house, which comes with tons of challenges. Eustress can look like going for the promotion, beginning a new job, or starting a business. Adding a new child or animal to the family can be eustress for some and pure stress for others. Eustress could be traveling or moving cross country. Then there are micro-moment eustress opportunities like rollercoasters, a kayak adventure, hiking, or jumping out of an airplane.

Exercise in general is eustress but when we are listening to the body, we know to ask: What intensity and duration of physical activity can I sustain without any negative consequences? What is the caloric intake and physical activity level required to achieve optimal body composition (i.e., BMI)? Once the limits are established, you can push your body to the established limits. The limits will naturally start to increase their borders as you reach past what you were last capable of. This is how you discover the possibilities available to you.

People that have never run in their lives have started with a walk that turned into a jog that turned into a run. That run got longer until they ran their first 5k and are signing up and training for a marathon. Day one, that person wasn’t thinking about running a marathon. They may have been short of breath and wishing they hadn’t laced their tennis shoes. The running journey began with a first step, much like every journey in life.

Building Resilience

Discovering all the possibilities requires increasing your body’s capacity for demanding life experiences. TBM focuses on increasing resilience. There are different types of resilience. Let’s focus on emotional resilience which indicates the degree that we can be confronted with emotionally challenging circumstances or situations. Emotional resilience also helps us maintain our ability to remain compassionate, focused, and constructive.

Imagine anchoring the sound body you’ve worked hard for with a high level of resilience that will handle stressors. When you successfully manage eustress and build resilience, you get the wild back. You can make decisions to experience life on a level you may have never allowed yourself to imagine before. What an exciting way to walk into your future.

It’s time to find the lion’s roar!

To deepen your understanding of this topic, conduct a web or similar search for the following terms and/or topics: resilience, eustress, distress, allostasis, homeostasis, allostatic load.

“Eustress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eustress. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.

Kevin Millet

Kevin Millet

Dr. Millet received his doctor of chiropractic from Cleveland Chiropractic College-Los Angeles in 1989. While a student there he worked for a brief period of time in Dr. Frank's chiropractic office in Tujunga, California. Dr. Millet began studying TBM in earnest in 2001 and had the good fortune of once again calling the same city, Salt Lake City, Utah, home as Dr. Frank. They got together nearly every week and Dr. Frank became a personal mentor to him as he was learning the ropes. Dr. Millet has been a TBM instructor since 2003 and the owner of TBM since 2009.

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