Using Stress as Motivation

For some, stress is a part of life that makes things more difficult, but for others, stress acts as a motivator. Although doctors tell us time and time again that we should avoid stress for health reasons, is it possible that there are some benefits to stress? Recent studies have shown that stress is not bad all of the time.

According to health educator Carol J. Scott, MD, “Short term stress can increase activity in the immune cells that boost the body’s defenses.” Thus, a little stress can benefit the immune system and enhance its ability to protect the body and fight diseases. Small amounts of stress have also proved to make vaccines more effective and may even protect against certain types of cancer.

Also, according to, studies have shown “Small amounts of stress hormones can sharpen your memory.” Researchers at the University of Buffalo noted that rats that were forced to swim an activity which causes them stress-remembered their way through mazes better than rats that were relaxed.

Apart from some of the medical benefits of stress, it also motivates people to act. Stress causes people to behave in a manner similar to when they are under pressure, and when people are under pressure, they are more apt to act. Students who are stressed and feel under pressure are more likely to get started on the schoolwork that has been piling up for weeks, and workers in a professional setting who are stressed are more likely to make a schedule and outline everything which needs to be done and by what date and time the task needs to be done.

When people feel they have too much time on their hands, they are more relaxed about certain things, but when they approach close deadlines and feel pressured, they tend to work harder and faster because they are motivated by their high stress levels. It is human nature for people to become complacent when they do not feel backed into a corner, but when an individual is being forced or rushed into doing something, they work with more precision and feistiness.

On the other hand, for those who are under extreme levels of stress, life coach Ruth Klein recommends calling a friend or getting some distance from the situation before taking any action to combat the pressure. According to Klein, stress raises the body’s levels of oxytocin, a hormone which helps people connect with others. Current studies believe that the oxytocin “provides a coping mechanism, helping to convert stressful experiences into opportunities for social bonding.” Therefore, those who are feeling extremely stressed may benefit from reaching out to others, even if it is only for friendly or soothing conversation.

Scott also suggests getting some distance from the stressful situation. When one feels pressure approaching, he or she should not panic, but rather, the individual should think rationally about the problem and a feasible solution.

“When women distance themselves slightly from stressors, they make excellent problem solvers, in part because of their unique mixture of creative, intuitive, and analytical thinking skills,” Scott said.

The most important thing to remember about stress is that it should be all about balance. There are no benefits to intentionally stressing yourself out in the hopes that you boost your immune system, suddenly gain a sharp memory, or are more motivated to take action. However, it is important for each individual to know their limits and understand what stress levels cause motivation and encouragement, and what stress levels push him or her over the edge.