4 Ways to Manage Stress


How can we better manage stress? Stress expert Professor Katie McLaughlin weighs in.

Dive deeper

Extra content if you want to learn more

Learn more about reframing stress with our video “Make Stress Work For You: Cognitive Reappraisal”.

In experiments spanning over 30 years, Carnegie Mellon’s Sheldon Cohen and his team “intentionally exposed people to cold and influenza viruses and studied whether psychological and social factors predict how effective the immune system is in suppressing infection.” The results? People with chronic stress were more likely to get sick, and factors shown to manage stress — like having social support and adequate sleep — seemed to “offer a protective shield” against infectious illness. Read more about Cohen’s research and its implications for understanding our susceptibility to COVID-19 at the Association for Psychological Science.

Sleep does far more than refresh us after a long day. A full night’s sleep consolidates our memories, boosts our decision-making, and stabilizes our emotions. A sleepless night can trigger up to a 30% rise in our anxiety levels. Read more about the research coming out of UC Berkeley, at Science Daily.

“There is a global experiment performed on 1.6 billion people, across 70 countries twice a year, and it’s called daylight savings time […w]hen we lose one hour of sleep, we see a subsequent 24% increase in heart attacks that following day … when we gain an hour of sleep, we see a 21% reduction in heart attacks. […Y]ou see exactly the same profile for car crashes, road traffic accidents, even suicide attempts.” Want to learn more? Listen to sleep expert Matthew Walker’s TED talk on why he believes sleep is our life-support system.

“We often turn to others for social support when we’re feeling stressed, but these new results suggest that proactively doing things for others may be another effective strategy for coping with everyday worries and strains.” Read the research behind this finding from the American Association for Psychological Science.

“If you are a recipient of a good deed, you may have momentary happiness, but your long-term happiness is higher if you are the giver.” According to the science, giving to others has powerful effect on our health and happiness (even just thinking about donating to a charity has positive benefits on the brain). Read more about the benefits of generosity by the Chicago Tribune’s Terri Yablonsky Stat.

“Studies have shown that social support—whether it comes from friends, family members or a spouse—is strongly associated with better mental and physical health. A robust social life, these studies suggest, can lower stress levels; improve mood; encourage positive health behaviors and discourage damaging ones; boost cardiovascular health; improve illness recovery rates; and aid virtually everything in between.” To learn more about the connection between social support, stress, and health, read Jamie Ducharme’s article “Why Spending Time With Friends is One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Health” in TIME.


Brooks, A. W. (2014). Get excited: Reappraising pre-performance anxiety as excitement. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(3), 1144.

Freeman, D., Sheaves, B., Goodwin, G. M., Yu, L. M., Nickless, A., Harrison, P. J., … & Hinds, C. (2017). The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(10), 749-758.

Bryant, P. A., Trinder, J., & Curtis, N. (2004). Sick and tired: does sleep have a vital role in the immune system?. Nature Reviews Immunology, 4(6), 457.

Mauss, I. B., Cook, C. L., Cheng, J. Y., & Gross, J. J. (2007). Individual differences in cognitive reappraisal: Experiential and physiological responses to an anger provocation. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 66(2), 116-124.

Ozbay, F., Johnson, D. C., Dimoulas, E., Morgan III, C. A., Charney, D., & Southwick, S. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgemont), 4(5), 35.

Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., Dillard, A. J., & Smith, D. M. (2013). Giving to others and the association between stress and mortality. American Journal of Public Health, 103(9), 1649-1655.


“4 Ways to Manage Stress” was created and developed by Olivia Kang, Kirsten Morehouse, Evan Younger, and Mahzarin Banaji, and features Professor Katie McLaughlin (Harvard University). Support for Outsmarting Human Minds comes from Harvard University, PwC, and Johnson & Johnson.

Camera and Editing by Evan Younger, Kirsten Morehouse, and Olivia Kang

Artwork by Olivia Kang

Video Footage by Storyblocks

Music by Tiny Music and Ben Beiny via Premium Beat