Why stress is good for you (in moderation)

At this time of the academic year, our final year students are starting to feel the pressure of approaching exam season. Knowing that the days left to prepare are running out, and the constant feeling that you've never quite done enough, can leave students feeling overwhelmed and actually becoming less productive. One of the most important things we encourage our students to do is to harness that stress and manage it in positive ways in order to improve their chances of success.

What is stress?

Stress is our natural response to a situation we perceive as threatening. In common use, stress describes the effect of coping with a demanding and continually changing environment, when the pressure outweighs the available resource. In chronic stress situations, sufferers enter the exhaustion phase: emotional, physical and mental resources suffer, the body experiences ‘adrenal exhaustion’ causing decreased stress tolerance, progressive exhaustion, illness and collapse.

And the science?

Demands on the physical or mental systems of the body result in hormone secretion (adrenaline, testosterone) which prepares the body for immediate action, for example when presented with a threat.

  • Increased pupil dilation

  • Perspiration

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

  • Rapid breathing

  • Muscle tenseness

  • Increased mental alertness

If the stress persists the body prepares for long term protection, secreting hormones to increase blood sugar levels. Fatigue, concentration lapses, irritability and lethargy result as the stress turns negative.

Benefits of stress

But stress is not always negative. It has some positive effects on our performance. [endif]

  • Spurs motivation and awareness

  • Provides stimulation to cope with challenge

  • Sense of urgency and alertness needed for survival when confronting threats


Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life. It is important to know how to handle it to avoid the negative effects. The better you learn to deal with it positively and prevent it getting out of control, the less likely you are to suffer from it.

Everyone is different and handles things differently. Just because you perceive someone else is handling more than you doesn’t mean you should be able to cope with stress better.

Dealing with stress - ABC


What causes you stress? How do you react?


How much can you cope with before it becomes negative?


What can you do to help you cope better with stress?

To do

In order to better prepare yourself to cope with stress, here are the things you should be thinking about.

  • Recognise your stress symptoms

  • Recognise the stress factors you can control

  • Know what you want

  • Set your priorities

  • Make time to relax and take care of yourself

  • Seek help when you find it difficult to cope

  • Sleep!


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