Stress is fundamentally good. It’s there to help us survive. Remember, also, that stress is universal. We all experience it on a regular basis. The goal is to reduce stress just enough that it becomes manageable for you. Luckily, it’s only when stress gets out of control that it is worthy of the bad rap that it often gets.
Let’s focus on some of the positive aspects of stress—some of the ways that normal levels of stress can actually make you a happier, healthier person. Your body is actually designed to deal very well with most of the stress you experience. The adrenaline release that comes with feeling stress can help you focus and think more clearly and provide you with an energy burst to help you perform better and achieve your goals. We see this very often in situations such as sporting events, school achievement, and many creative and social activities. Harvard University scientists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, discovered that up to a point as stress levels increase, so does performance. If you’re feeling absolutely no stress (for example, when you are bored or lethargic), performance levels are typically also low.
There’s no motivation to perform at your best. When stress levels are in the moderate range, however, performance is at its peak because the stress is helping to push you to excel. However, performance levels diminish again when you feel excessive levels of stress.
So, the goal is to feel some stress in your life . . . the helpful kind. Let’s imagine you have an important presentation at work or school coming up. Stress helps make sure you’re ready for it. Stress drives you to put your best foot forward and do as good a job as you can. If you didn’t become stressed at all, you may not be motivated to prepare for the presentation. You might oversleep, be too laid back, act or dress inappropriately, and come off as a poor speaker.
If you’re too stressed, you might not be able to focus on giving your presentation because you’re so wound up and worrying about how it will go. You might even forget the main points you need to tell your audience.
So, over the past few days, you’ve learned that stress is a normal, universal response to changes around us (that is, to stressors). Whether the change represents a possible threat, a demand, or some other alteration in your life, stress is there to help you cope. You’ve learned about the physical, mental, and behavioral responses that occur with stress – and how these responses are all geared toward keeping you safe and preparing you to take action. Finally, you’ve seen how not all stress is bad. In moderate amounts, it’s beneficial in different areas of life.