To Cope with Stress, Try Learning Something New

Harvard Business Review


Zhang, C., Myers, C.G., & Mayer, D.M. (2018, September). To cope with stress, try learning something new. Harvard Business Review, Digital article.


Zhang, C., Myers, C.G., & Mayer, D.M. (2018). Chcesz poradzić sobie ze stresem? Naucz się czegoś nowego. Harvard Business Review Polska.

Summarized (Management Tip)

Learn something new to relieve some stress (2018, November). Harvard Business Review.


Zhang, C., Myers, C.G., & Mayer, D.M. (2018, November). To cope with stress, try learning something new. Ascend, from Harvard Business Review.


There are typically two ways people try to deal with work stress. One is to simply “buckle down and power through”—to focus on getting the stressful work done. Professional workers often have a “bias for action” and want to find a solution quickly. The other common tactic is to retreat—to temporarily disconnect from work and get away from the stressful environment. Unfortunately, both of these approaches have pitfalls. Continuing to work while stressed and fatigue can tax us and lead to worse performance. And while a reprieve from work can offer temporary relief, it doesn’t address the underlying issues causing the stress in the first place. Research suggests a third option might be more effective at helping us manage stress and its effects: focusing on learning. This can mean picking up a new skill, gathering new information, or seeking out intellectual challenges. In two recent research projects, one with employees from a variety of industries and organizations, and the other with medical residents, researchers found evidence that engaging in learning activities can buffer workers from detrimental effects of stress including negative emotions, unethical behavior, and burnout.