Stress is Contagious: How to Protect Yourself

Stress is Contagious: How to Protect Yourself

Raise your hand if you know someone who seems to constantly be stressed out, overwhelmed, and in deep crisis mode?

Ok, I can’t see you, but I’m betting if I could, you have your hand raised, or you’re at least thinking about raising your hand except for the fact you think you might look silly, staring at your screen, raising your hand.

You’re also probably thinking about that person you know … let’s just call her, Stressed-Out Sally.

Do you know that Sally’s stress can actually be contagious?  Yes, that means you can actually catch stress from the people who are around you.

We tend to absorb the stress of those we work with if we’re not careful.  And the sad thing is that once we absorb it, we usually PASS IT ON TO OTHERS.

So, what can you do about it?  Well here are 5 tips to keep you from catching and spreading second hand stress.

1.  BE AWARE.  The first step is to identify and be aware of Stressed Out Sally.

2.  ENTER THE BUBBLE.  Yes, sounds crazy, but the next time you have to interact with Sally, I want you to visualize yourself stepping inside of a big super strength bubble.  Stress bounces right off of this bubble!  So when Sally starts downloading her woes, troubles, and crises, you don’t have to absorb them.  Just let them bounce right off!

3.  DON’T BE A FIXER.  Remember, your job in the world is NOT to fix everyone else’s problems. If you take the approach of trying to fix Stressed Out Sally’s world, guess what?  You’re going to feel super stressed out!  Did you ever think that Sally might like living this way in the world?

4.  WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE BEEN EXPOSED, DO SOMETHING!  At the first sign of a cold, I’m all about taking extra vitamins.  It’s the same with stress.  If you’ve been exposed, as soon as you are able, practice some kind of technique to get the stress from inside of your body to outside of your body.  Deep breathing (inhale for 6, hold for 2, exhale for 7 / repeat 3 times), purposeful stretching (stretch your arms out over your head and picture the stress leaving your body through your fingertips), or any kind of movement (take a quick walk to your car, the other side of the office, or where ever you can) … these all help you to change your energy and release the stress you’ve been exposed to.

5.  MAKE A COMMITMENT TO YOURSELF.  Half of the battle is deciding that you aren’t going to pick up and carry around stress that isn’t yours.  I’m guessing you have plenty of your own stress, so don’t add anything that’s not yours to that load you’re already carrying.

Preventing secondhand stress in your life will not only create more satisfaction, energy and joy for you, but also for the co-workers, friends, and family that you encounter every day.  Stop the cycle and enjoy your daily experience!


About the Author

Monica Scalf is the founder of The Playground Group, LLC, a company that helps organizations increase bottom line results by investing in the development of their people. Since 2009, she has been teaching workshops on teamwork, productivity, and personal effectiveness in places such as P&G, Lexis Nexis, and Xavier University. Her mission is to help create positive and productive workplaces where employees thrive without sacrificing personal happiness.