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As a First Responder and Service Provider How to Have Success with Stress: What is Eustress?

Most of us have experienced pressure and stress at various times in our lives, whether that be from finances, work, relationships, or all three. Now think of the kind of stress we endure every day while adding the responsibility of someone else’s life to it. 

First responders and service providers are among the top professions to endure the most stress daily. Due to the copious amounts of secondary trauma they endure, their stress levels can become abundant. To be able to fully understand how to be successful with this kind of stress, you must recognize what causes them and how to manage them. 

What is Stress?

Stress is a physiological response to challenges or threats, which evoke our fight-or-flight instincts. This response is an instinctual connection from your brain, telling your body whether you should fight or run to protect yourself when facing a stressor. Some common causes of stress that are often seen by first responders and service providers every day are: 

  • Being under a lot of pressure

  • Not having control over a situation

  • Having overwhelming responsibilities

  • Going through a period of uncertainty

Our bodies are constantly trying to find a state of balance, also known as homeostasis, so constantly being stressed, or rather, in fight or flight mode, can have some serious consequences. 

What Is Eustress?

There are different types of stress we can experience in our lifetime, and they can typically be narrowed down into three categories. You can experience acute stress, which is short-term and usually triggered by being nervous. You can also experience chronic stress, which is more long-term. 

A more positive kind of stress is known as eustress, which comes with breaking out of your comfort zone, but in a good way. Eustress is associated with positive outcomes, like exciting life transitions and traveling to a new place. The impact of eustress can be extremely beneficial, as it may help you concentrate and focus, encourage you to take on new challenges or help you feel more resilient. 

How to Take Advantage of Eustress as a First Responder or Service Provider

Balance is essential. A certain amount of eustress can help you feel happier and boost your well-being. Since research has shown that the positive outcomes of eustress directly correlate with positive reinforcement in yourself, capitalizing on these moments can help you become more confident in other stressful settings. 

Learning how to recognize stress and eustress and how to manage both for a beneficial outcome is crucial. Misinterpreting signs of stress and relying on maladaptive coping skills can exacerbate existing symptoms, whereas recognizing stress reactions and having several adaptive coping skills available will allow a person to effectively respond to their circumstances across situations. 

Additionally, see my E-book, The Compassion Conundrum: Strategies for First Responders and Service Providers to Prevent Compassion Fatigue, where I discuss the differences between stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue. Understanding stress and burnout on all levels can help you develop a routine to regulate stressors daily. 

  1. Source: Elizabeth Scott (2023) Eustress is The Good Type of Stress You Dont Know You Needed

  1. Source: Jena Casas (2023) Protecting the Mental Health of First Responders

  1. Source: SAMHSA (2024) Diaster Responder Stress Management

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