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Stress Curve - Part 2 with Kirsten Rose

Compiled by our Masters trained Physiotherapist Kirsten Rose. To book an appointment with Kirsten, or read her Meet the Team profile CLICK HERE. 

Stress - Part 2

Where are you on the stress curve? 
The Yerkes-Dodson concept is a model of the relationship between stress and performance. It’s a theory that has been around since the early 1900’s. 

It shows us that stress can be seen as a continuum. Too little stress or challenge and we’re likely to become unmotivated. At this level, there’s often little incentive to perform well so we go about our routine but boredom sets in.  

As the challenge increases, so does our motivation. A moderate amount of stress goes a long way in boosting our performance. We’re alert, thinking clearly and our brain and body are fired up to get the job done. This is called eustress. But this only works up to an ‘optimal point’. 

After this point there’s too much pressure. Stress and anxiety ramp up and we are unable to perform to our full potential, despite the fact we may still actually want to perform well. Our stress response is now working against us and we are negatively affected both mentally and physically. 

The Yerkes-Dodson law is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. At times we may not be challenged enough - restricted social activities, boredom or lack of routine can easily rob us of motivation. Or at the other end, we may be feeling overly stress and anxious about work, family, finances and the general uncertainty. The combination of these can easily push us down the other side of the curve. 

Where do you think you are sitting right now? Auckland Physiotherapy Director and Masters Physiotherapist, Mark Quinn, shares his experience with stress. If you read the previous blog about the different components of stress, can you pick these out from Mark’s description? (Thoughts, feelings, behaviours, physical reactions). What could you do to move yourself back into the optimal zone? 

Mark, when does stress make you perform better?
Stress makes me perform better when I manage to keep my discipline while managing my workload, family life, and ensuring I continue to work on the things that help to mitigate the negative effects. I do love a good challenge and getting through a list of jobs but if this becomes too much it can lead to overwhelm so I am learning how to manage that.

'Healthy stress' gets me up in the morning (not too early), encourages me to do all my jobs that I need to before I start the day and at the end of the day leaves me feeling satisfied with enough in the tank to have fun with my son and partner in the evenings. 

How do you know when your stress is becoming too much/negatively impacting you? 
I start to wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty getting back to sleep. Anxiety creeps in. I also start to work too much and drop off my exercise and meditation which I know really helps me. My partner would probably say that I become less positive (a nice way of saying I get grumpy).

What's your go to for managing stress for yourself? 
I have to work hard on limiting my work hours (I tend to over do it) so have a reminder on my phone - no screen time from 7pm onwards... this basically means get off your phone and stop doing work but I do allow myself to watch tv as this helps me to wind down. Exercise, meditation, and ensuring I have some down-time that is not screen time. For me that is getting out in nature, going for a swim, or hanging out with friends and family. 

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