Eustress vs. Distress… What does it mean and why is it important?

On yesterday’s podcast, I shared a clip from Summit where I mentioned a word you might not hear every day: eustress. When we talk about your health and the enjoyment of your life weighed against the stress required to run your own business, what we’re really talking about is eustress vs. distress.

As you can probably tell, they’re two different forms of stress, and stress is what today’s blog is all about. Because particularly in a market like this one, stress is a major issue for real estate agents right now.

But here’s the main thing you need to take away from this blog: as a real estate agent (or a human being in general), stress is unavoidable, but the type of stress you feel is what makes all the difference.

Thanks, Tom, but that doesn’t really explain what eustress is…

Don’t worry! Because we’re going to explore eustress, what it is, why it’s important, the negative effects of its counterpart, and what you can do to shift distress into eustress.

Let’s dive right in!


Eustress vs. Distress: Defining the Two

Stress isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. It’s a spectrum.

All the way on the right side you have distress – an emotion that was once reserved for helping us escape predators in the wild but has now worked its way into just about every situation in our lives. The thing about this type of stress is that we’re not meant to feel it constantly, and living in this state (like so many people do in this day and age) can have harmful effects on your body, mind, and level of productivity.

Do any of these sound like you?

  • Full of anxiety and worry
  • Tired in the morning and sleepless at night
  • Don’t feel motivated to make your calls or meet new people
  • Craving junk food
  • Constant brain fog
  • The pressure is too much

If you said yes to one or more, you’re likely living in a state of distress, which if left unchecked could have serious consequences down the road and even lower your life expectancy.

Now, remember what I said at the beginning… Stress is unavoidable, so there must be a better version.

Let’s slide all the way to the left of the spectrum…


Eustress vs. Distress: The Better Stress

On the opposite end, you have eustress. This is the positive stress that motivates you to tackle something bold and brave. It forces you to step out of your comfort zone in an exciting way and become the best version of yourself. It lifts you up instead of crushing you, and gives you dreams of a great future instead of nightmares of potential failure.

People don’t succeed without stress, but what separates high achievers from everyone else is that they’ve found a way to tap into eustress to eliminate their anxiety and keep pushing forward.

This type of stress can actually improve your health and vitality because it gives you extra energy. People who live in a constant state of eustress almost always exercise more and even eat better – because they’re MOTIVATED to!

So, if it’s always a battle of eustress vs. distress, how can you tap into eustress more often?

I have a few ways…

Tapping into Eustress, Tip 1: Learn Something New

It’s only June but this has already been a crazy year for me. I’ve been to 25 different states and multiple countries including most recently Australia; I’m launching a ton of new business ventures, programs, and events; I’m speaking on stage more days than I’m not; and I’m still finding time to be fully present for my family and the people I love.

But did you know that I’m also working on learning Spanish? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it – to choose this radically busy time to pour my energy into learning something new like that?

Actually, now is the perfect time, because the first step of moving from distress to eustress is to keep your mind in a state of receptive learning. In Zen Buddhism, they call this “Beginner’s Mind,” where you keep yourself in a mode of childlike learning and fascination.

I’m not saying you need to learn a language, because if your business is struggling, learning something new in that category is what you should absolutely be focused on.

Which brings me to Tip No. 2…


Tapping into Eustress, Tip 2: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

But Tom, if I’m already distressed, wouldn’t going farther out of my comfort zone just make it worse?

It depends on what you’re going out of your comfort zone for… If it’s for chasing the same old thing without thinking it through then yeah, it might. But if it’s to gain inspiration, support, and experience, then that’s the fast track to eustress.

This is exactly the reason I’ve been constantly on the road this year because agents need to transmute distress into eustress more than ever right now and events are one of the best ways to do it.

In August, I’m hosting our 20th anniversary Success Summit in Dallas, where thousands of agents from across the world will come to learn new strategies for their businesses, meet new people, break out of their routines, and gain inspiration to last them through the entire next year. I like to think of it as a charging station for real estate agents who feel that their batteries are running on empty.


Tapping into Eustress, Tip 3: Take Your MEDS

If you follow my content, you’ve probably heard this one before, but it needs to be repeated over and over and over again.

It all comes down to the fundamentals – your MEDSS:

  • Mediation
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Sleep
  • Supplements

At its core, stress is a result of either dopamine or cortisol. Eustress is triggered by mostly dopamine and a little cortisol. Distress is the symptom of too much cortisol and not enough dopamine.

A lot of people think that dopamine is a “feel-good” neurochemical, but that’s not really true. Dopamine is about motivation because it’s the reward your brain gives you for doing something good. But there’s a difference between good dopamine and bad dopamine. Good dopamine comes from completing a task and coming up with creative solutions. Bad dopamine comes from junk food, TV, and dangerous prescriptions.

Incorporating meditation, exercise, a healthy diet, and at least eight hours of sleep into your schedule is the most proven way to reduce cortisol in the brain and heal your dopaminergic system.

Robert Butler of the National Institute on Aging has said: “If exercise could be packaged in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”

And Rutgers University conducted a study that found that people who frequently mediated experienced a 50% reduction in cortisol levels.

So if you’re looking to perform at your best every single day, you need to take the time to take your MEDSS.


Eustress vs. Distress: It’s a Choice

Just like anything else in life, the type of stress you feel and its effects on your health are the results of your behaviors. What you do is often what you get. If you have anxiety but you’re not seeking help, meditating, or expanding your mind, then I don’t know what to do for you.

Normally on lists like this, I’d tell you to choose one of the above and run with it, but in this case, I don’t think just one is enough. You need all three – this perfect trifecta – to free yourself from distress and light the fire in your belly that propels you forward (and if you need help, you know where to find us).

I hope that this has been a good start.