It’s been well-established that stress can take a serious toll on our physical health, now a study has found just how deep the benefits of getting on top of our stress can run.
The North Carolina State University researchers focussed primarily on younger adults and the benefits they can experience from taking preemptive steps to respond to stress.
“These results are important for helping us work with people to build resilience since proactive coping refers to skills that can be taught. The findings also suggest that younger adults, in particular, can benefit significantly from these skills.” – Shevaun Neupert, professor of psychology at North Carolina State University.
Proactive coping is an umbrella term for behaviors that allow people to avoid future stressors or prepare themselves to respond to those stressors.
These can be behavioral, such as saving money to deal with unexpected expenses, or cognitive, such as visualizing how to deal with potential challenges.
“You can also think of proactive coping as a way of helping people continue to work toward their goals, even when dealing with challenges,” Neupert says.
The first of the two studies focused on skills that allowed people to concentrate on their goals when dealing with stressors.
For this study, the researchers enlisted 223 people: 107 younger adults (ages 18-36) and 116 older adults (ages 60-90).
Study participants completed an initial survey that focused on understanding goal-oriented proactive coping behaviors that the participants engaged in.
The participants then completed daily surveys for the next eight days, recording the stressors they experienced each day, as well as their physical health symptoms.
“We found that younger adults who consistently engaged in proactive coping, such as thinking about what they need in order to be successful, experienced fewer negative physical health symptoms on stressful days,” Neupert says.
The second study focused on efforts aimed at avoiding or preventing stressors.
For this study, the researchers enlisted 140 people between the ages of 19 and 86.
Study participants completed a baseline survey designed to capture their stress-prevention proactive coping behaviors. After that, the study participants completed daily surveys for 29 consecutive days, reporting on their daily stressors and physical health.
For this study, the researchers found that adults between the ages of 19 and 36 who engaged in proactive coping reported little or no drop-off in physical health on stressful days, compared to adults in the same age range who engage in less proactive coping.
Both studies found that proactive coping had no effect on older adults.
“The effects in both studies were linear, so the more proactive coping younger adults engaged in, the better their physical health on stressful days,” Neupert says.
Here at With a Little Help Counselling, we can assist you with the development of goal-oriented proactive coping skills, in particular for young people.
If you would like to make an appointment with our Child & Youth Counsellor, Kaitlyn Rooke, please just follow this link.