The Double-Edged Sword Of Stress

Social media is great. It allows us to keep in touch with friends, share important news and discover interesting stories. On the flip side social media is awful. It overloads our brains with useless information, erodes our privacy and constantly disrupts our attention.

Like many things, it’s a double-edged sword.

Double edged sword - something that causes both advantages and problems

Stress is another example of a double-edged sword at work. In the right dose it can help us grow stronger, more resilient and capable. In the wrong dose it can cause suffering, burn-out and poor health.

In his excellent book, How To Eat, Move And Be Healthy Paul Chek describes the six types of stress we encounter (or don’t encounter) on a daily basis. Physical, chemical, psychological, electromagnetic, thermal and nutritional.

Within each category there is typically a goldilocks zone where the stress signal is just right. For example with insufficient physical stress (exercise) we get fat, weak and sluggish. With excessive physical stress we feel run down, achy and depleted. Between these two extremes lies a zone where physical stress makes us fitter, stronger and more energetic.

Eustress is a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye to describe this type of beneficial stressor but in the hectic world we live in more and more of us are undershooting or overshooting the mark and instead causing ourselves distress.


  • Complete lack of exercise
  • No positive goals or purpose in life
  • Insufficient exposure to sunlight
  • Not eating enough calories
  • Neglecting sleep


  • Suicidal workout schedules
  • Taking on too much work or responsibility
  • Eating too many calories
  • Aggressive holiday tanning
  • Inhaling, drinking and eating too many toxins

We don't need to fear stress. It can be (and is) a good thing. We just need to expose ourselves to the right magnitudes and frequencies or risk being cut by the wrong side of the sword.