Question: Can stress be beneficial?
Answer: Actually stress can be quite beneficial. In fact, I think when most people think about stress, they think of something they need specifically to reduce, when in fact what the research shows is that we need to optimize our stress, not necessarily to reduce it. Because there is an ideal level of stress in which we're most likely actually to be able to accomplish the things we need to accomplish.
So for example, when we work with medical students here who feel stressed, if they're overly stressed by their exams or by the tasks that they're asked to perform, if they attach lots of significance to doing well on exams, and put themselves under a lot of pressure, their stress level is too high, and their performance isn't optimal at all.
On the other hand, if we have a medical student who feels as though he or she has learned this material before and doesn't get stressed enough about it, their job performance, or their exam performance, is likely to suffer as well. So there's a critical middle ground where stress actually helps us to perform at our best.