Can Stress Improve Your Performance?

Pop culture teaches us to avoid stress. Burnout, muscle and physical tension, sleep problems, panic attacks, and more can all happen to an overstressed individual. However, stress isn’t without benefits. Empirical studies and researchers have all acknowledged that stress has its advantages.

This leads us to believe that stress, when managed correctly, can be a powerful driving force that can positively impact our performance. Understanding it better and learning about it can help us harness the good things that stress can bring us. 


What Is Stress?

Stress is a reaction to pressure and perceived threats. It can be caused by work, relationships, health, death, politics, debt, parenting, divorce, and more — the factors that trigger stress are everywhere.

Everyone reacts to stress differently and we all have our own thresholds for it. Your genetic makeup plays a role in modifying your predisposition or response to stress. For example, if your parents have a tendency to become tense before an examination or while stuck in a traffic jam, you’re likely to respond similarly to these stimuli.


Which Type of Stress Helps in Performance?

A specific type of stress known as eustress can be beneficial for performance. Eustress, the opposite of distress, is a positive form of stress which comes from situations that are challenging and motivating rather than overwhelming and threatening.


How Does Stress Affect Performance?

Stress is considered counterproductive for our performance. It can cause hormonal imbalances and reduce your ability to think rationally. 

But stress is not always bad.

Stress can also help improve your performance by creating a surge of energy and a favorable balance of hormones in your brain. 

How? Well, when you perceive stress as a challenge rather than a threat, it can actually help you perform better. Research supports this fact and demonstrates that how we perceive and respond to stress can help us turn it into an asset. When we focus on the positive impacts of stress, our perceptions of stressful situations change, and we’re more likely to deal with challenges more efficiently and confidently.

So, does stress improve performance? Absolutely. It all depends on how we see it and respond to it.


5 Benefits of Stress

We now know that stress can become a  positive thing. But how exactly can it help our performance?

1. Increased Focus and Attention

Stress triggers a release of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol which helps sharpen our focus and increase our attention span. 

2. Heightened Motivation To Achieve Goals

The surge of energy that stress provides can give you the drive you need to push through obstacles and overcome challenges. This can lead to a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

3. Enhancement of Memory and Learning

The release of cortisol during moderately stressful situations can enhance memory consolidation and retrieval. This is useful in situations where you need to remember important details such as during an exam.

4. Boost in Physical Performance

Stress triggers adrenaline which can increase heart rate and blood pressure as well as improve physical strength and endurance. This can be beneficial during situations such as during athletic events and exercise.

5. Develops Resilience

By learning how to cope with stress, we can develop the skills and confidence to handle future challenges. This can lead to a sense of self-efficacy and improve our overall well-being.


Final Thoughts: Stress Isn’t the Enemy

From the moment we first encountered stress, most of us were probably taught that stress is to be avoided and minimized. However, this discounts its powerful benefits. Let’s not forget that moments of stress also give us heightened focus, awareness, and a sense of urgency.

By learning how to manage stress and see it in a more productive and useful light, we can use it to our advantage and may even excel because of it.

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