Mental & Emotional Health
Stress Management

People Create Differing Stress Responses

People faced with stressful situations display a number of different coping behaviors, and those behaviors can affect them the following day, a study has found.

The findings, by researchers from North Carolina State University, are based on a pilot study of older adults.

“This finding tells us, for the first time, that these behaviors are dynamic,” said Dr. Shevaun Neupert, lead author of a paper describing the study and an associate professor of psychology at NC State. “This highlights a whole new area for researching the psychology of daily health and well-being.

“And these are behaviors that can be taught,” Neupert adds. “The more we understand what’s really going on, the better we’ll be able to help people deal effectively with the stressors that come up in their lives.”

In their study, the investigators looked at 43 adults between the ages of 60 and 96.

Participants were asked to fill out a daily questionnaire on their activities and feelings – including whether anything stressful had happened – on the current day, according to a news release from the university. They were also asked whether they expected a stressful even the next day, and how they were getting ready for it.

The results found that people used different coping behaviors to prepare for different stressors, and that those coping behaviors changed from day to day.

“The findings tell us that one person may use multiple coping mechanisms over time – something that’s pretty exciting since we didn’t know this before,” Neupert says. “But we also learned that what you do on Monday really makes a difference for how you feel on Tuesday.”

“This was a pilot study, so we don’t want to get carried away,” Neupert says. “But these findings are very intriguing. They raise a lot of questions, and we’re hoping to follow up with a much larger study.”

The findings were published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

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