Are You Suffering from Secondhand Stress?

Stress Can Be As Contagious As Germs


That newspaper headline grabbed my attention. While we can get our flu shots, wash our hands often, and eat a balanced diet that bolsters our immune system, secondhand stress–just like secondhand smoke–can wreak havoc with our health and well-being.

According to the article, Debra Safyre, a former nurse and energy management consultant, related the effect of stress to a tuning fork. “When you hit a tuning fork, everything around it starts vibrating with it,” she said. “It’s the same thing with stress. If stress is a very strong vibration around you, you’re going to start reacting to it.”

Dr. Berendina Numan, co-founder of the Center for Counseling and Stress Management, said the impact of secondhand stress has only recently been recognized. While stress in small doses is good to propel you into action, excessive prolonged stress leads to a variety of health issues, from headaches to heart problems.

There are three ways to deal with secondhand stress.

First, you can change the people who emit this vibration. Good luck with that one! Second, you can get away from them. This is not always an option, especially if they are family members or your boss or coworkers.

Finally, you can protect yourself from them. In “The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living,” Dr. Amit Sood recommends imagining yourself wearing a Teflon vest so that stress doesn’t “stick” to you.

To reduce our anxiety and build up our immunity to stressful people around us, Dr. Sood suggests these wise daily practices:

On Monday, Be Grateful. 

When things go wrong, focus on what went right.

On Tuesday, Express Compassion. 

Remember that an expression other than love is a call for help. Read this Harvard Business Review article, “Prevent Burnout by Making Compassion a Habit.”

On Wednesday, Accept.

When you recognize that all humans have flaws and are fallible, you can accept them without embracing their imperfections.

On Thursday, Recognize the Higher Meaning in Life. 

By clarifying who you are and why you exist, you are more likely to do things that are meaningful to you at that time.

Read “The Why, What and How of Better Balance for Your Organization” to see how defining your life purpose can benefit you.

On Friday, Forgive. 

Forgiveness is for you, not for the forgiven.

On Saturday, Celebrate.

On Sunday, Reflect.

What stress-reducing strategy will you commit to practice? I love hearing from you!

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