Taking Care of Number One: The Yerkes-Dodsons Law

Every year I ask my college students the same bonus question on one of their final exams. The question reads: “Who is number one?” More than half of my students will respond, “You are, Al!” I smile, sit back and say, “Yeah, you know it!”

Have you ever felt guilty when you placed your own needs before the needs of someone else? Well, the reality is you have to take care of yourself.

We live in such a fast-paced world. It can be difficult to take care of ourselves when we feel that we are being pulled in so many different directions. The continuous demands of work, family and relationships can cause significant stress. Many people simply accept high levels of stress as being a normal part of life. This is unfortunate, because while some stress can be positive, too much stress impacts our overall ability to perform.

The Yerkes-Dodsons law

The Yerkes-Dodsons law, developed by psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson, demonstrates the relationship that exists between stress and performance. This law states that we need moderate levels of stress to motivate us. However, too much stress will impair our ability to perform.

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