How can we better manage stress? Stress expert Professor Katie McLaughlin weighs in.
ONSCREEN TEXT: If you’ve watched our video about how stress can boost performance…
…you’ve learned about the power of Cognitive Reappraisal.
What is Cognitive Reappraisal?
PROFESSOR KATIE MCLAUGHLIN: So that’s a fancy way of describing a process where you think about a situation differently to change the way that it makes you feel.
And what’s fascinating is that if you teach people to rethink those experiences, those feelings of being stressed, rather than as being negative but as something that’s actually really helpful, that’s going to help you perform in the moment, it has an enormous impact on your performance.
ONSCREEN TEXT: So, think “I am excited” instead of “I am anxious”. What are other ways to cope with stress?
PROFESSOR KATIE MCLAUGHLIN: Another example that’s a really simple one that I think people are less aware of is actually sleep. … What’s really interesting is that people who get a regular night’s sleep are not only protected against some of the mental health consequences of stress, the physical health consequences, but in the moment, when you put them in a challenging situation, they exhibit a more physiologically adaptive response to stress. So getting a good night’s sleep is a simple and very effective stress management strategy.
Then a third strategy that people may have heard a little bit about is the role that social support can play. Research suggests that social support is potentially one of the most powerful buffers against the negative effects of stress. People who have a large social network or who have a smaller network but feel very supported emotionally in that network, have people they can reach out to when something bad happens, are less likely to develop depression; when they experienced stress, they’re less likely to develop physical health problems; their immune system is actually more resilient to stress if they have good social support.
But one recent finding that I think is really interesting suggests that it’s not only receiving support from other people that can help to buffer the effects of stress. But actually giving support to others can serve as a very powerful buffer against the negative consequences of stress. So in that particular study, they found that people who engaged in at least a couple of hours a week of activities that were designed to help other people—something like volunteering at a food bank, or even you know, volunteering as a coach for your kids soccer team—that doing a few hours of those kinds of activities designed to help and support other people was associated with a very powerful buffering effect against the effects of stress on health over time.
4 Ways to Manage Stress:
- Reappraise It: “I am excited”
- Have Social Support
- Give Social Support]
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 Implicit Bias 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