Limit Break: Eustress and Perseverance


Writers: Rafael Reyes
Researcher: Rafael Reyes
Graphics: Jia Moral, Krystle Mae Labio

Challenges in life are as natural as breathing air. Throughout history, there are countless stories of valiant people who take a brave leap across the hurdles that they face. Their stories and struggles differ in many ways, but they all share one common aspect: the will and determination to move forward. Is this determination something humans innately possess? Is it something everyone can cultivate with the right components? Why is struggle a part of the journey to success?

Reframing Stress

Stress is often associated with negative connotations. This type of stress, also known as “distress”, holds a significant impact in many aspects of our lives, like adverse workplace behavior—performance, attitudes, absenteeism—and poor well-being [1]. It’s no secret that stress is one of the biggest topics constantly under study for decades [1]. For something that has such a profound impact in our functioning, there must be insights that can let people turn it into a source of momentum.

There is growing evidence of the fact that stress isn’t always negative. Applying some level of stress actually promotes better performance and fosters positive feelings as a result [2]. This type of stress, known as “eustress”, is framed as “the healthy, positive, constructive outcome of stressful events and the stress response” [2]. Those who can harness

Is it possible to turn our distresses into eustress? A 2018 study proposed that framing stressors and challenges have potential gains for one’s productivity and well-being [3]. For one, the way a person might call a situation a “challenge” or a “hindrance” shows how they perceive the potential gain/harm there is in the situation. Those who see a given situation as a “challenge” are already framing their situation positively [3].

Learning about eustress might not change one’s life overnight, but understanding how reframing negative situations into positive ones yields some benefits [3, 4, 5]:

  1. Increased focus, productivity, and performance. Eustress was positively correlated with being “on the zone”, wherein we are fully engaged and immersed in what we are doing, at our peak potential [4].
  2. Better subjective well-being. When our well-being is at a satisfactory level, it can protect us from the negative effects of distress [3]. When we are generally happy, we become healthier, more productive, and more sociable [3].
  3. Passion and motivation. “Good stress” can push us to keep moving forward and be happy, challenged, and productive [5]. Life can get boring without something to keep us engaged, and the lack of pressure makes us perform worse than average [5].

Both types of stress—distress and eustress—are two sides of the same coin. What differentiates the former from the latter is when it becomes intolerable to the point of discomfort [5]. Imagine water in a bathtub; there is a specific balance that brings the best experience, and too much of either hot or cold water pushes us more towards distress than eustress [5].

Persistence is Key

With an understanding of what eustress is and how eustress benefits us, it’s time to answer the question, “Why is struggle a part of the journey to success?”

As mentioned earlier, eustress pushes us to keep moving and be productive. If you’ve engaged in any sport or game, you must know the feeling of finding your match—one who is similar in ability. The significance of finding peers within your level presents not too much pressure that you’re anxious, and not too little pressure that you’ll get bored immediately.

This experience is a real-life example of the Yerkes-Dodson Law, or the Inverted-U model. It asserts that peak performance is achieved when one is moderately pressured [5]. Look up any stories of your favorite sports players, fictional or real. Chances are that they have a rival that they want to surpass. The rival also carries similar motivations, and this dynamic between rivals creates room for both of them to persevere and grow.

Sometimes, we cannot push ourselves forward alone, and we need others to keep us motivated. We Filipinos are a collectivistic society, meaning we tend to emphasize group needs more than individual goals [4]. A 2016 study found that Filipino students manifested higher levels of eustress in academic stressors than Argentinian students, which the latter comes from an individualistic society [4]. Perhaps there is a bond that forms from being in the same boat, studying the same materials, and taking exams from the same terror professors, that Filipino students use to positively frame their situation.

Struggle is part of the journey to success because without it, we cannot savor whatever we deem “successful”. What success looks like varies from person to person, and the lengths one goes to to achieve that goal shows the value one attaches to their goals. If success came so easily and without pressure, we would not hear about any awe-inspiring feats and inspiring stories. Humanity would not be standing proud in this progressive and technological era without persevering. Most importantly, we won’t realize what it truly means to achieve without perseverance.

Session Questions

  1. What differentiates “good stress” from “bad stress”?
  2. Who do you lean on when you’re facing challenges?
  3. Why is struggle part of the journey to succeed?


  1. Hargrove, M. B., Hargrove, D., & Becker, W. S. (2016). Managing Stress: Human Resource Management Interventions for Stress and Eustress. Journal of Human Resources Education, 10(2), 25–38.
  2. Hargrove, M. B., Becker, W. S., & Hargrove, D. F. (2015). The HRD eustress model: Generating positive stress with challenging work. Human Resource Development Review, 14(3), 279–298.
  3. Brulé, G., & Morgan, R. (2018). Working with stress: Can we turn distress into eustress. Journal of Neuropsychology & Stress Management, 3(4), 1–3.
  4. Mesurado, B., Cristina Richaud, M., & José Mateo, N. (2016). Engagement, flow, self-efficacy, and eustress of university students: A cross-national comparison between the Philippines and Argentina. The Journal of Psychology, 150(3), 281–299.
  5. Venkatesh, B., & Ram, N. (2015). Eustress: A unique dimension to stress management. Voice of Research, 4(2), 26–29.


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