Wellness: Positive Stress

Apr 9 2021

Serene Spy

3 min read

Woman shower waterfall

Stress can be a very negative experience and most articles about stress will advise you to calm down and de-stress.

But there is such a thing as good stress.

You know when you get a burst of energy that helps you meet a work deadline, get your kids to school in the mornings or solve a problem in the moment – and the buzz of achievement you get after? This is good stress.

Also known as eustress – negative stress is the better-known distress – good stress can help us:

  • stay motivated and inspired
  • work towards goals
  • feel optimistic
  • save lives.

Of course, if you feel unhealthily stressed and it is affecting your life, then you might want to read our article Come Home Stress Free. or Spa to reduce stress. But sometimes it’s our attitude to stress that holds the key.

Mind over matter

One of the earliest stress researchers, Hans Seyle found the way we think about stress can be a contributing factor to how it affects us.

“It’s not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it” he wrote.

Simply knowing that stress can be positive can be beneficial. The problem is that the word ‘stress’ is very emotive and some studies have found that it is our stress about stress that makes us ill. If we see stress as an extra energy burst in response to a challenge it may help us feel less under attack and more empowered.

Similarly, if in response to a challenge we say “I can do this!” instead of “I can’t cope”, we can transform distress into eustress.

Positive stress in spas

There is some evidence to suggest that putting our bodies or our skin under stress can trigger fast healing responses and rejuvenation. This is the principal behind:

  • skin peels
  • fire and ice treatments
  • aerobic or weight bearing exercise
  • detox or fasting retreats
  • cold water exposure.

Positive stress therapies have been in the news lately, from the cold-water therapy of Iceman Wim Hof and Gwyneth Paltrow’s love for intuitive fasting. Although these may sound bonkers, there is some science to back this up.

Hormesis is when the body is exposed to intermittent bursts of sublethal stressors, such as cold water or fasting. Stress researchers are currently studying whether these challenges can trigger a set of physiological and hormonal responses that may help build resilience and reduce inflammation. For those of use exposed to environmental stressors, controlled postive stress can help build resilience to stress generally. As one study review put it, positve stress may act as ‘a vaccination against modern living’.

When all else fails, exercise is one of the best responses to negative stress according to studies.

Our favourite spa (good) stressors

The Spa at South Lodge has an outdoor natural swimming pond – jump in and feel invigorated by your stress hormones. Wild swimming is said to be great for depression, brain fog and feeling a bit meh. Wild swimmer Alexandra Heminsley describes it as a “hangover in reverse: pain first, buzz after"

The Fire and Ice Spa at Aqua Sana Woburn Forest – heat up in the lava volcano then brave the ice room or the rainwater walk through. Juxtaposing hot and cold is said to activate your immune system, reduce inflammation and improve general wellbeing.

Our Spa Spy was impressed with her youthful skin after her Natura Bissé Facial at Sequoia Spa at The Grove, featuring two peels, suction cups and facial brushing. Of course, there is nothing remotely stressful about this experience – it was positively Zen like. Our skin did all the work.

At home, you can try Five at home facial peels for all skin types – read the Spa Spies verdict on how each peel works on their different skin types.


Serene Spy

9th April 2021

Spy Likes:

Soft fluffy robes, imaginative vegetarian food, products that combine luxury with strong eco credentials and spas which look after their therapists’ wellbeing too.

Spy Dislikes:

Showers that aren't spotless, snootiness and having to get dressed for lunch.

Spas featured in this article

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