Stress can be contagious, and secondhand stress is the kind of stress that builds up when you spend time around others that are stressed. And it’s real. I was quoted in this fantastic piece by Cindy Kuzma about the phenomena of secondhand stress, and what we can do about it. Here are a few excerpts:
“We’re hard-wired to empathize with others—it’s key to survival since we have to cooperate and care for each other to live, says Alicia Clark, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C. And when those around us feel the heat, scientists believe that special brain cells called mirror neurons pick up their cues. The same fight-or-flight hormones that surge through their bodies then surge through yours, making you panicky in the moment and possibly unhealthy in the long run, Clark says.”
“Create Some Distance
Physically leaving the room or turning off your phone can give you time to process stress without absorbing as much of it, Clark says.”
Another reason stress spreads is that other people’s problems dredge up our own, Clark says. Get to the bottom of your reactions by trying to complete these sentences: “When Suzy was talking about her stressful day, it made me feel ____” and “I’m afraid of ______.” Your analysis can illuminate the right path. If you realize your co-worker’s breakdown has you worried about your meeting with management, prepare a list of your accomplishments so you can present them with confidence.”
Click to read the full article.