How we deliberate upcoming stressors affects our stress levels

Research into the way we consider upcoming problems has found that our attitude may be affecting our overall mood, possibly even affecting our ability to deal with those impending issues.

The researchers of North Carolina State University took on 43 adults between the ages of 60 and 96, and gave them a daily diary to fill out for nine days, recording answers investigating their mood, health, and the stresses they foresaw on the horizon, such as upcoming disputes at work or at home.

They then recorded the way in which they thought about these possible stresses in their lives. The researchers split the answers into three different methods: Problem analysis (thinking about the problem and why it is going to happen), plan rehearsal (thinking over how they plan to deal with the problem), stagnant deliberation (just thinking about the issue, but not in a constructive way), and outcome fantasy (just hoping the plan will solve itself).

The method of mental consideration people used seem to change from day to day, but it was found that when using ‘outcome fantasy’ or ‘stagnant deliberation’, people were in a worse mood and were even more likely to report physical health issues the day after.

This indicates that these trains of thought do nothing to reduce stress, and possibly even increase it.

The study is only a pilot, and needs further follow up investigations with people from many different walks of life. But the information could be used to help people deal with stressors in the future.

Lead author Shevaun Neuport explained: “These are behaviours that can be taught.

“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.”

It seems that approaching issues with a healthy, proactive mind set can help reduce the stress of everyday life that we feel.

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