a little anxiety may be just what you need to focus your efforts and perform at your peak, psychologists say.
Somewhere between checked out and freaked out lies an anxiety sweet spot, some researchers say, in which a person is motivated to succeed yet not so anxious that performance takes a dive. This moderate amount of anxiety keeps people on their toes, enables them to juggle multiple tasks and puts them on high alert for potential problems….
The notion that moderate anxiety can be beneficial goes back at least to 1908, when Harvard psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson posited that arousal (as they called it) enhances performance—but only to a point. When anxiety gets too high, performance suffers instead.
The Yerkes-Dodson curve—an upside-down U shape—is still taught in psychology courses, and modern neuroscience has helped confirm it. Studies have shown, for example, that the brain learns best when stress hormones are mildly elevated.
The best book I ever read on this subject was Laurence Gonzalez's Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, which has some very eloquent stuff about how anxiety can serve as a useful signal rather than a paralyzing agent.