The Benefits of Stress: Finding the Optimal Level

Published on August 20, 2019

“I’m stressed!” When you hear these words, you probably imagine the many situations in life when you have felt stressed or nervous. The reality is that most of us wish stress would just disappear as it often leads to intense emotional pain. 

Let’s look at stress from another perspective, however. It may seem contradictory at first, but stress can motivate us to achieve and become more successful. 

A good example is when giving a speech before a large audience. Picture yourself about to go on stage. Your mind is full of thoughts such as “Maybe I’ll freeze up”, your heart beats fast and you pace back and forth. If our nervousness overwhelms us, we struggle to give our speech. If we manage out nervousness successfully, however, it will not affect our performance negatively.

In fact, a moderate amount of stress and nervousness motivates us to perform more successfully. This is the optimal stress level and it helps us achieve success in many areas, including giving speeches.

How do we achieve the optimal stress level? First, we need to manage our nervousness. Some strategies to tame our nerves include thinking positive thoughts and deep breathing. Overuse of these strategies, however, may lead to complacency and decrease our motivation. Achieving the optimal stress level requires trial and error. We want to reduce our nervousness so that it does not overwhelm us but maintain it at a lower level so that we remain motivated and achieve our best.

I encourage you to achieve your optimal stress level so that you become more successful as well as satisfied in life.


Category(s):Anxiety, Happiness, Stress Management

Written by:

Andrew Adler, Ph.D.

Andrew Adler, Ph.D. is the director of the Adler Family Centre and the Honorary Consultant (Psychology) at OUHK-LiPACE. He is a licensed psychologist in New York State (US) and has specialised in evaluating and treating a wide range of psychological difficulties for the past 20 years. He earned doctoral and master degrees in clinical psychology from Yale University after graduating Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. He taught at Yale University and supervised medical students as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at New York Medical College. In his work in hospitals, clinics and private practice, Dr. Adler has evaluated and treated the full range of psychological difficulties experienced by children, adolescents, adults and their families. Prior to moving to Hong Kong, he was a psychologist in Shanghai for three years, treating and assessing children and adolescents, both expats and local residents.


Mental Health News