Why I want you to be a little stressed when you are studying

Feb 21, 2022 | Blog

Now you are probably thinking that I am some evil Trunchbull style teacher from Matilda from the headline of this blog.  However, to be clear, I am not advocating for our students to be on the edge of burnout.  Neither though, do I want you to be relaxed and carefree in the face of your exam revision.  I am instead arguing that I want you somewhere in the middle, a sweet spot that makes you productive and focused rather than exhausted or depressed.

This diagram shows the inverted-U Theory, developed by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson in 1908. Despite the fact that the model was developed long ago, it continues to be relevant. You may also have heard it called the Performance Curve.

So, you can see that along the bottom of the diagram you have pressure or stress. On the vertical axis, you have performance levels. The zone in the middle is the zone of best performance – we need some stress or pressure to get us in the zone, so we get into a state of flow. This is also known as the Eustress zone, a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye consisting of the Greek prefix eu meaning “good”, and stress, literally meaning “good stress”. Eustress is what we are aiming for – the zone of positive stress.

However, if we experience too much stress or pressure, we end up in the distress zone, where we are overwhelmed, feeling burnt out, and eventually exhausted. 

Let’s look at the area of boredom or low pressure. How often have you said, ‘I’d just like a stress-free life!’ Well, the reality may not be quite what you were expecting. When we don’t have enough pressure or demands on us, we can feel de-motivated and lack stimulation. Without that exam deadline pressure, very little work would be done.  This is because that deadline can be good for us, it motivates and stimulates us and gives us a sense of purpose. The zone of low pressure can be just as challenging as the zone of distress for some.

So how can we get you into the EuStress zone? Preparation here is key.  Make a study plan for your module, start early and ensure that you complete the whole course content at least two weeks prior to your exam, giving you lots of time to do the revision and arrange a call for support on certain areas.

Need help with your study plan? Then get in touch we would be happy to put one together for you.