Does stress help to work faster?
Stress itself is neither good nor bad. Stress is simply a physical response, developed to equip you to do whatever is necessary, either fight your way out of dancer or remove yourself from the cause of stress. Without this physical response, our species would have become extinct a long time ago. We can use stress constructively in an emergency situation, when driving and even when running for a bus/train. Often, however, stress is a counterproductive response.
When in the state of stress the body automatically creates hormones such as adrenaline. This hormone increases the heart rate, delivering more oxygen and blood surge to power important muscles and gives you a surge of energy which can help focus your mind. So, in certain situations a degree of stress can be useful to focus and sharpen our minds so that we achieve our goals and objectives.
The performance zone is the zone to drive optimal mental, physical and emotional performance – whether applied to sports, work or even driving. Above the performance zone and edging towards burnout we will struggle – problem solving, lateral thinking and creative thinking skills diminish. We are unable to think clearly and make good decisions, and can become reactive, angry and sometime even aggressive. Below the performance zone we may find ourselves unable to motivate ourselves, energy and enthusiasm will be low and we will be bored sluggish and lethargic. The aim is to understand your performance zone, optimise your stress levels and maintain yourself in that space.
Stress and adrenaline do make you work faster, but it also increases many stress related disorders. e.g. blood pressure could be higher.
It can also prevent healthy sleep patterns, and this can have even more damaging consequences.
Forstly, separate stress from adrenaline. Adrenaline is one of several hormones that is secreted when you are under stress. Stress generally occurs when your fight or flight system is activated and your brain prepares you to deal with a perceived threat. The fight or flight response releases the same chemicals whether a snake crosses the path in front of you or you are up against an important work deadline.
The impact of stress on performance is well documented. The Yerkes-Dodson law that states that low levels of stress generally results in boredom and feeling unchallenged. Even if a task is of great importance, in the absence of an appropriate level of stress, attention and concentration to perform the task are significantly low. On the other hand, extreme levels of stress produces low performance levels due to negative feelings resulting from overwhelming stress. However, there’s a region called the “area of best performance.” In this region, moderate stress that is well managed leads to the highest level of performance.
What is perceived as stressful is somewhat dependent on your personality type. Some people find that stress produced by procrastinating is a motivator, while a different personality type might find the thought of waiting until the last minute to finish a project totally paralyzing.
So, stress can make you work faster (and smarter) up to a point after which you still may work faster for awhile but with more mistakes and eventually exhaustion and burnout.