Stress and Stimulation Threshold

One of the tenants of psychology is the concept called the Yerkes-Dodson Law or curve. With performance on the bottom and arousal on the left, the graph showed that arousal can and will increase performance to a point (and this point differs from person to person). Then performance decreases, sometimes dramatically. Arousal is another word for stress. It’s also another word for sensory stimulation. Similarly, performance can also be described as health. So another interpretation of the Yerkes-Dodson curve suggests that to a point, stress (sensory stimulation) is good, but past that point, all hell breaks loose. I first heard of this in my work with Olympic athletes, but the concept applies to anyone.

We are living is times of sensory bombardment. While many people call this the “information age,” others have nicked-named it the “marketing age,” where not blank space, real, cyber or otherwise, is left blank. Bits and bytes of information are flying everywhere. Signs of information overload include a shortened attention span, irritability, poor memory, even poor reaction time. Because there is no separation between mind and body, when these conditions persist, the next sign is burnout, followed by some aspect of health that becomes compromised. The key in psychological terms is this: Know your threshold and don’t go beyond it.

• Stress Tip For The Day:

What is your threshold for sensory stimulation? People under the age of 20 seem to have an unquenchable thirst for sensory stimulation. Conversely, the elderly do best when they stick to a routine, perhaps minimizing/filtering what comes in . Experts in the field of brain physiology with an eye on Alzheimer’s suggest that the brain needs new stimulation (e.g., a new language, Sudoku, cross word puzzles, etc.) Experts in the field of stress management remind us of the importance of meditation as a means to stabilize, if not master, this threshold of excitement. Balance is the key. Knowing your excitement threshold is like knowing your checking account balance. What is your threshold for sensory stimulation? What do you do to master it? If you don’t have a practice of meditation, it is never too late to get started with it.

• Links/Books Worth Noting:

If you haven’t read the Newsweek article on Information Overstimulation, here is the link:

• Quote for the Day:
“I finally get meditation. It’s like deleting old emails.” — 8th grader at Sunset Middle School, Longmont, CO.

• Photo of the Day:
Today’s photo isn’t a photo at all. It’s a cartoon I had created for my textbook. Enjoy!

Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned expert in the fields of stress management, mind-body-spirit healing and stress and human spirituality. He is the author of over 10 books including the bestsellers, Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, Stressed Is Desserts Spelled Backward, The Art of Calm, Quiet Mind, Fearless Heart and Managing Stress (6E). He can be reached through his

© Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D.

Brian Luke Seaward

Author Brian Luke Seaward

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