The aims explored associations between stress ratings and influences on coping on student mental health and motivation and compared defensive-pessimism against optimism as a strategy for learning motivation. Most research construes stress as distress, with little attempt to consider positive ‘eustress’ experiences. Undergraduate psychology students (N=162) were surveyed on student and pandemic-related stressors, personality, support, control, mental health and learning motivation. Overall, lack of motivation and procrastination were acute. Uplifting ratings of teaching and optimistic thinking were associated with good mental health, but context control was key. Hassle ratings of teaching lowered learning motivation. Support and conscientiousness bolstered learning motivation, with the latter an important buffer against hassle experiences on motivation. Openness was associated with the stress involved in learning. For those anxious-prone, defensive-pessimism was as effective as optimism was for those not anxious-prone, in stimulating learning motivation. Developing context control, support and strategies linked to personality could bolster student resilience during and post Covid-19.