Second Hand Stress & How It Affects Our Systems
Sitting on a flight last year, I ended up in the Emergency Exit row. As reminded frantically by the air hostess, it was a huge responsibility and I needed to make sure I was up to the job. She then proceeded to raise her voice to people around her and remind them about the possibility of crashing and who could save who.
Naturally, within five minutes, everyone around her was panicked, stressed and not feeling secure about flying.
Stress and anxiety are contagious. When we worry and panic, we are naturally influencing the people around us, no matter their level of resiliency.
I remember reading this article at one point when I wasn’t so sure about the reasons for feeling as stressed as I was. I had started the day feeling relatively calm and well, the day had been mapped out. Coffee was in hand and a decent agenda set that would support my productivity at length.
Then, came the unexpected. Someone cancelled a meeting. Cool.
After that, I got a text to say the weekend plans had changed. Alright.
Finally, someone seriously stressed had started venting to me about what had been bothering them all morning and how their day had been negatively impacted.
You see, the reality with stress is that it is going to happen. We are going to experience interruptions from others and this will throw us off in a multitude of ways.
As it happens though, while we navigate our day, the likelihood is others will impact our moods, productivity and ways of being in more ways than one.
Our brain operates with mirror neurons. When we see someone yawn, it will influence us to yawn. Emotions spread via a part of the brain that allows us to empathise with others and understand how they’re feeling.
We can pick up negativity, stress and uncertainty like second-hand smoke.
Therefore, what are some solutions?
Realistically, we are not going to be able to avoid stress or even, second-hand stress. It’s part of life and a reality for the majority of environments.
- Self-awareness. Knowing how we are feeling, what our triggers are and how we can be influenced is important. Take note of what works for you to start your day off on the right foot, what can negatively impact your mood and what stress looks like for you. For example, it could be something subtle that creeps up on you, without realising.
- Boundaries. When it comes to boundaries, what do you need to put in place? This refers to ourselves as well as our encounters with other people. We need to know what our limits are physically as well as emotionally. Understanding where and when we need to support ourselves is imperative to handling our own stress and becoming immune to second-hand stress.
- Build resiliency. Resilience is our ability to deal with challenging circumstances and essentially, cope. It allows us to navigate a variety of situations and centre back to baseline when our emotions and mood fluctuates. I often join LIFT sessions and this is one of the themes that is highlighted.
- Build systems. Much of the time, we as humans go into auto-pilot without even realising. We go about our day to day routine, have most of the thoughts of the day before and engage with those around us as we usually do. Recognising where our energy is increasing and depleting can really affect our stress levels. Act accordingly.