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Stress Diagram

Stress Diagram

Some pressure and stress can provide healthy stimulation and help us feel motivated and energized to get things done. However, too much pressure can lead to anxiety and unhealthy personality changes. In other words, if you draw stress as a normal “bell-shaped” distribution curve (as it is shown in the stress diagram above), there is a healthy segment in the middle of the curve and unhealthy segments at the two tail ends of the curve — too little pressure and too much pressure can both be problematic. Let’s review these types of stress on the curve:

Eustress, in the middle, is optimal pressure or stress that provides a degree of immediate energy and motivation to act. Eustress often arises at points of increased physical activity (think of a “runner’s high”), enthusiasm, and creativity. Eustress is positive stress that arises when motivation is high and people feel able to handle difficult or complex tasks or a lot of pressure at once.  We all have the capacity to be in the eustress zone a lot of the time with good pressure management skills operating consistently.

Distress is a negative stress state, typically brought about by too little happening around us and often leading to apathy, confusion or tiredness. Distress creates feelings of discomfort and boredom. Distress may last for a few hours or can be a prolonged stress that can exist for weeks, months, or even years.

Hyper-stress occurs when an individual is pushed beyond what he or she can handle. Hyper-stress results from being overloaded or overworked. When someone is hyper-stressed, even little things can trigger a strong emotional response. Prolonged states of hyper-stress can often overwork the immune system and lead to illness.

For most of us, the problem has more to do with “hyper-stress” than with “distress” but it is important to realize the symptoms of too little stress and take action to correct this uncomfortable state if and when you find yourself (or your employees) in that position. The more we can recognize when we are in each of these types of stress situations, the better able we will be to manage ourselves and our reactions.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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