top of page

The Good, the Bad ... and the Ugly

Eustress: The Good Stress

Stress can be positive or negative, depending upon the situation and the individual. Positive stress (called eustress) is generally a result of nervousness and anticipation, which can be brought on when you are facing a big event, exciting deadline or a challenge that stretches your comfort zone, yet its something you actually look forward to, and that type of stress helps keep you motivated, achieve your goals, and feel inspired both during and after. This of course is the opposite of procrastination, which stems from being in chronic distress. People that thrive on the eustress of deadlines do not wait to the last minute to get everything done; in fact, they are usually working on a project on many levels and in unseen ways the entire time, and utilize the structure of a definitive deadline to put it all together. 


In fact, stress can nudge us to solve problems, as well as learn and grow from challenging experiences. Instead of trying to "reduce" or "manage" stress, learning how to respond to it skillfully can turn it into a driver of personal growth and peak performance, while concurrently creating the proper balance and setting the necessary boundaries to avoid getting pulled into the quicksand of burnout.

Article Link : Eustress: The Good Stress 

On the flip side, distress is chronic, negative stress that makes you feel overwhelmed and out of control because your resources (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) are constantly being drained, and often kicks in what is known as "fight, flight or freeze" triggered and reactionary behaviors. If not properly addressed, it becomes increasingly more likely you will become snared by burnout.


When we experience something stressful, in most instances this propels a cycle of behaviors that begins with thoughts, that in turn prompts corresponding emotions. These negative thoughts and challenging emotions then active our primal “flight fight or freeze response” and generates physical sensations in the body and the pumping out a surge of stress-triggered hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.  You may have heard this referred to as an "amygdala hijack" as it is driven by the area of our brain that controls our basic survival reactions. These sensations could be anything from your heart racing, to sweating, to feeling panic.


It's important to recognize that all this is happens automatically…it can happen within 30 seconds and often without our conscious awareness. This then moves into behavioral responses or reactions, often in the form of engaging in unhealthy habits and coping patterns, which can actually create more stress, and the cycle continues. If you are dealing with chronic daily stress, you are constantly in defense and reactive mode and so that fight-or-flight-freeze reaction stays switched on. The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body's processes, and that in turn puts you at increased risk of many health problems. Stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack.


The above image comes from the New England Journal of Medicine and shows ideally how the curve of normal stress responses is balanced by a subsequent recovery period of rest. Too often, however, many people don’t calm down but continue to experience stressors without the restorative effects of a healthy stress response.

Distress: The Bad Stress


Regardless of the types of stress, there is a universal quality in human beings in how they act in the face of any one them. The stimulus or stress prompts a response or a reaction, depending upon the person's resiliency skills level and ingrained coping skills.


For some that struggle with 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds knee-jerk reactivity, the space (or gap) between the stimulus or rigger – no matter if it comes from within as self-created stress or without - and the person's response to it is key to self-control, and the ability to choose a response that is productive – or not so much. 

During times of organizational stress and change, people look to leadership that is calmly responsive, not knee-jerk reactive.

This Toolkit was designed to help you choose actions and behaviors that will become your new "go to" stress response regardless of the situations, events and interactions that used to throw you off balance. 

Burnout The Ugly Stress


Burnout at work is a toxic mix of chronic stress, exhaustion, reduced performance, and increased negative feelings about your job and/or workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic increased the likelihood of burnout, along with a number of other concerning challenges to our behavioral health such as depression, anxiety, substance use and escapist behaviors.


In 2019 the World Health Organization finally included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, describing it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” This language acknowledged that burnout is more than just an employee problem; it’s an organizational problem that requires an organizational solution.

Featured Resource:

The Harvard Business Review:
"Beyond Burned Out"

“Teaming up together, Leiter, Maslach, and David Whiteside, the director of insights and research at YMCA WorkWell, and I created a survey that analyzes the state of burnout and well-being during Covid-19. We combined several evidence-based scales, including the Maslach Burnout Inventory General Survey (MBI-GS), a psychological assessment of occupational burnout, and the Areas of Worklife Survey (AWS), which assesses employees’ perceptions of work-setting qualities that affect whether they experience engagement or burnout.

"With support from Harvard Business Review, we gathered feedback from more than 1,500 respondents in 46 countries, in various sectors, roles, and seniority levels, in the fall of 2020. Sixty-seven percent of respondents worked at or above a supervisor level.

"What did we learn, in a nutshell? Burnout is a global problem."

Some Stats from the "Beyond Burned Out" study:

Burnout has six main causes:


Unsustainable workload

Perceived lack of control

Insufficient rewards for effort

Lack of a supportive community

Lack of fairness

Mismatched values and skills

89% of respondents said their work life was getting worse.

85% said their well-being had declined.

56% said their job demands had increased.

62% of the people who were struggling to manage their workloads

had experienced burnout “often” or “extremely often” in the

previous three months

57% of employees felt that the pandemic had a “large effect on” or “completely dominated” their work.

55% of all respondents didn’t feel that they had been able to balance their home and work life — with 53% specifically citing


25% felt unable to maintain a strong connection with family, 39% with colleagues, and 50% with friends.

Only 21% rated their well-being as “good,” and a mere 2% rated it as “excellent.”

"The 1,500 people in our survey not only much more squarely fit the burnout profile than did the nearly 50,000 respondents who had taken the MBI-GS before the pandemic, they also scored very high on exhaustion and cynicism — two predictors of burnout, according to the MBI-GS. “These survey responses make it clear that a lot of people are having serious disruptions in their relationship with work,”


Leiter notes. “It’s not surprising that people are more exhausted -people are working hard to keep their work and personal lives afloat. But the rise in cynicism is even more troubling. Cynicism reflects a lack of trust in the world. So many people feel let down by their government’s poor preparation for the pandemic, as well as by the injustices in work and well-being that the pandemic has highlighted.”

Download the Harvard Business Review piece "Beyond Burned Out here: 

Click to access the entire series that HBR dedicated to burnout titled
The Big Idea SeriesThe Burnout Crisis"

bottom of page