Eustress vs. Distress: Dealing with Stress as a Travel Nurse

Eustress vs. Distress: Dealing with Stress as a Travel Nurse

Sweaty hands, nail-biting, a racing heart, these are just a few of the physical side effects of stress. Stress comes in many forms and is felt differently by everyone. However, there are some commonalities to the symptoms of stress. Before you write stress off as a horrible nuisance, it is important to know that there are two types of stress: eustress vs distress. In case you weren’t already familiar, eustress is positive stress and distress is the negative stress we most often feel. We are going to dive a little deeper into how these types of stress can impact your life, and how you can learn to manage the stressors in your life, both on assignment as a travel nurse and at home.

Eustress vs Distress

Relax or stress road sign.

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According to Miriam-Webster, eustress is defined as “a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being.” For example, eustress is the type of stress you feel before a big game or a performance. You feel sick to your stomach, but the stress makes your body produce adrenaline which drives better performance. For you as a travel nurse, the energy spike you feel when you’re experiencing eustress can be beneficial during a shift. However, it is important to take some time for yourself to recharge. While the pros of eustress definitely outweigh the cons, it still isn’t good to wallow in the excess energy for too long.


While eustress can be beneficial for your mental stability and performance on the job, the difference between eustress vs distress is resounding. Distress can be a virtually paralyzing feeling depending on the severity of it. Often distress is associated with fear of the unknown, the feeling of impending doom, being stuck in life, etc. For many people, distress is experienced during times of conflict, illness, and many more scenarios. Distress is a common feeling associated with anxiety and panic disorders. A lot of people also experience distress in their professional lives. This can happen to you as a travel nurse when you are having problems communicating with co-workers or with patients. Miscommunication is a frequent occurrence, especially in a busy workplace environment. As a travel nurse, it can be especially difficult to avoid distress, but learning how to better avoid it as well as channeling the energy from stressful events can help you both at work and at home.

How to Manage Eustress vs Distress

Managing Eustress

While eustress can actually be helpful for you, it is still important to remember to take time to recharge, even after positive events. We’ve collected some of our favorite ways to soothe the side effects of eustress and recharge.

  • Give yourself down-time. Especially as a travel nurse (or any nurse for that matter!), it is important to rest. Whether that means taking a nap on your day off, or just relaxing and binging Netflix at the end of a long shift. Taking some time to just sit and unwind can really help to alleviate some of the side effects of stress- positive or not.
  • #SelfCare- the newest lifestyle trend to sweep the internet. Often, we underestimate what a good face mask or back rub will do for us. Self-care is what you want it to be, the point of it is to do something that makes you feel unabashedly awesome!
  • Sweat out the adrenaline. A common effect of eustress is an adrenaline rush. While this can be helpful on the job, or doing something that requires a high energy level, adrenaline can be very draining if you’re trying to relax. Doing something like getting to the gym or going for a run can really help rid your body of any excess adrenaline.

Managing Distress

Once again, distress is often felt in tandem with anxiety and/or panic disorders. Distress can bring about feelings of being overwhelmed, so it is important to know how to deal with these feelings. Carrying distress is a heavy weight, especially if you are on an assignment and don’t have a ton of time to cope. Here are some ways that you can combat the symptoms of distress.

  • Ground yourself. Using your senses, make yourself aware of the sights, sounds, etc. around you. This helps center your mind and bring clarity to your thoughts.
  • Compare your current situation to other situations you have experienced. While the comparison is often highly discouraged, sometimes when it comes to distress it can be beneficial for you to compare your current situation to others you have personally been in. Putting things into perspective may bring you a sense of peace without making you feel bad about your emotions.
  • Do something just for fun. Pick back up an old hobby- if you like to paint do it! Take some of your favorite co-workers to a painting with a twist night or do some yoga with a friend. Doing something just because you want to will give you a sense of control over your life when everything else might feel chaotic.

Key Points: Eustress vs Distress

In sum, there are a ton of differences between eustress vs distress. The basics are as follows: eustress is good stress and can help boost productivity. Distress, on the other hand, is negative stress and can cause other issues if not properly dealt with. Both eustress and distress can affect your life and job in different ways, so it is important to learn how you experience these types of stress before starting a new assignment.

What are some ways you deal with eustress vs distress as a travel nurse? Let us know in the comments below!

Author: Travel Nurse Source

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