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Finding The Sweet Spot of Stress

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and fall out of routines that help you deal with stress. And there is a lot of things about stress that makes it difficult to manage, you can read about that here. But not all stress is bad. Some stress is essential for us to function well. Today, I want to share information about good stress and get you thinking about what you need to do to find your sweet spot of stress. This is something that I frequently help people with in my private practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Not all Stress Is Bad

We naturally think that “stress” is bad, when in fact that’s not true. There are three main types of stress, one of which is essential for our motivation.

Eustress: this type of stress is positive. It motivates into action towards achieving goals. Something that is characterized as “eustress” is seen as within our coping abilities. An example of this type of stress is developing a new skill where practice is essential for improvement, or going on a second date with someone you are interested in.

Distress: this type of negative stress leads to problems in performance and emotional and physical health. Something that is characterized as “distress” is seen as being outside of our abilities to cope. Some examples of distress are job insecurity, having too many demands at work, or having relationship problems.

Dysfunction: this type of stress results in impairment, meaning that a person is not able to maintain normal functioning. Dysfunctional stress may result in the development of chronic illness, getting fired from a job, major depression or panic attacks, or major strain on relationship.

How to Find the “Sweet Spot” of Stress

There is a behavioral law called the “Yerkes-Dodson” law which essentially lays out how well we function based on how much stress we have. You can watch a short video where I show you a graph of this law so you can see the intersection between how much stress you have and how well you are functioning.

The question I have for you is this: how do you identify your “sweet spot” of stress? That spot where the intersection between stress and functioning works to your benefit? What does that intersection look like so that you motivated to get up a bit earlier, to push a bit harder, or to be a bit more vulnerable with someone else so that you are in a position of optimal functioning; you are performing well, sleeping well, not struggling with too much worry, irritation, or lack of confidence.

Take Action to Optimize Stress

What needs to be happening in your life so that you are experiencing eustress (that’s the good, motivating stress) more often than distress or dysfunction?

Review this starter list and commitment to 2 or 3 things that you can do on a daily, or almost daily, basis so that you can move towards your sweet spot of stress. Once you’ve got that down then add in 1 or 2 additional things you can.

    • Spend more time with friends or family
    • Spend more time alone
    • Do a hobby or listen to music
    • Say no to more things to establish priorities
    • Turn off technology after a certain time
    • Stop looking at social media sites so much
    • Say yes to going to bed when I’m tired
    • Say yes to a hobby
    • Start excercising
    • Develop a morning routine
    • Start noticing and challenging stress-filled thoughts
    • Change 1 or 2 things in my diet
    • Have that difficult conversation
    • Set boundaries with a toxic person
    • Make that appointment with the doctor or psychologist
    • Write your thoughts or goals down
    • Nurture my spiritual life
    • Spend time in nature
    • Sleep more; sleep less…improve your sleep habits

In wrapping up, remember that not all stress is bad and you need some stress to motivate you towards your peak performance in all areas of your life. Take some time to think about what you need to do to find your sweet spot of stress, and then take action, no matter how small.


Dr. Leedy headshot Legacy Counseling Service Broken Arrow, OklahomaDr. Leedy is a clinical psychologist at Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. She serves clients throughout the state of Oklahoma through face-to-face and online counseling. She helps adults improve stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, as well as coping with chronic illnesses and pain.

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