Good vs Bad Stress: The big difference!

Stress is a natural part of being human, it is simply a response to the challenges and changes we face in life. It is our responsibility to understand good vs bad stress and how we can manage bad stress. By doing so, we can drastically increase the quality of our life and become the best version of ourselves.

What is good stress?

Good stress is a form of stress that can motivate us to achieve our goals. It can come in the form of:

  • Excitement: This can come from starting a new job or attending a big event. This excitement can help us to perform at a higher level and be proactive in taking action.
  • Challenge: Facing challenges can put us in a situation where we are forced to develop and grow.
  • Anticipation: Anticipating an important meeting can remind us to stay motivated and focused on the task at hand.

Stress in small doses can be extremely beneficial, for the reasons listed above. It is important to practice tasks under stress in a controlled environment, allowing us to become more effective at these tasks over time regardless of the situation. This is essentially training the mind and body that what is happening is okay and you can achieve it.

The important thing to note when training good stress, is that you should not feel overwhelmed.

What is bad stress?

Bad stress is a negative emotional response that is perceived to be threatening or challenging. Experiencing too much bad stress can lead to various problems within our mental and physical health, such as anxiety, depression, hypertension, heart disease, obesity.

Acute stress is short-term stress which is normal for people to experience. This can occur after a stressful event such as a car accident. Typically the stress goes away a short while after the event.

Then we have chronic stress, this is when the body’s default state is stress. Usually this happens after experiencing stress long-term, and can have serious implications on your health and quality of life. Typical situations that can cause chronic stress are:

  • Financial worries
  • Work-related stress
  • Toxic relationships
  • Traumatic events such as a death of a loved one

Living with chronic stress can come with some terrible mental and physical symptoms, such as:

  • Emotional symptoms: Anxiety, depression, lack of focus and drive, inability to interact socially, anger and dependency issues.
  • Physical symptoms: Muscle tension, gut and digestive issues, problems sleeping and relaxing, abnormal metabolism, high blood pressure, stroke, weakened immune system, headaches.

Stress is simply a response

It is important to note that two separate people can respond very differently to the same event. How the mind perceives the event will ultimately control how the body reacts, and in turn how it plays out in real-life.

For example, let’s say there are two people who both own 50% of a business, and the business is facing serious financial problems.

One person may approach this event negatively. Worrying about things outside of his control, whilst blaming others and turning to alcohol to try cope.

The other person may take this event as a challenge to overcome, making the survival of his business a top priority, reminding himself of his purpose and taking complete accountability for his actions. He makes sure he eats healthy and exercises to give his body the rest it needs to work harder.

Who do you think will adapt better to inevitable stress and live a happier and more successful life?

What is the autonomic nervous system?

The autonomic nervous system plays an important part in the body’s physical response to stress. This system is divided into two parts, the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest state) and the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight state).

Parasympathetic nervous system

This system is activated when we are resting or relaxing, and is responsible for causing some of the following physical changes:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased respiratory rate
  • Increased blood flow to the digestive system
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Improved bladder and bowel function

Sympathetic nervous system

When our body perceives a threat, this system is activated. Also known as the fight or flight state, it’s responsible for causing some of the following physical changes:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Increased blood flow to muscles
  • Decreased blood flow to the digestive system
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle tension

The modern world and stress

Back in the early days when we were living out of caves and our main worries were food and shelter, our sympathetic nervous system was reserved for when extremely real threats were imminent. For example, protecting ourselves from getting torn alive by a sabre tooth tiger.

Nowadays in the modern world, we’re being pinged constantly with new information and technology allowing us to become increasingly efficient. Our fight or flight response is being activated by things such as meetings or presentations in our never-ending to-do lists.

Living with a constantly activated sympathetic nervous system is extremely exhausting and damaging to the body over time, this is the same as what we referred to as chronic stress earlier.

We must learn to train and control our autonomic nervous system through methods such as cold therapy and breathing exercises.

We must also prioritise activities that activate the parasympathetic nervous system with relaxation techniques, including yoga or light exercise, meditation and listening to calming music. These activities will help us create balance in our lives.


In this post we looked at the definitions, common examples and causes of good vs bad stress. Additionally, we looked at some of the extensive emotional and physical symptoms that stress can bring.

We learned about the vital function of the autonomic nervous system and its parts, and highlighted the importance of keeping the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system in balance.

How do you guys positively manage stress in the modern world? Please share!





2 responses to “Good vs Bad Stress: The big difference!”

  1. William Isom avatar
    William Isom

    Hi, will the US made marineland filter recommended here work ok in the UK regarding the power plug as they have a 110v system as opposed to our 230/240v?

    1. David Mann avatar

      Thanks for your comment. i assume you’re referring to the ice bath pump and filter article. I’ve updated the article to state you’d need a step down converter to allow the US product to work in the UK. I’ve also included a well reviewed and recommended internal and external pump/filter which are UK products.

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