Stress and anxiety are contagious. This is why seeing someone in a stressed state can make you feel down. And we are more likely feel stressed or anxious if those affected are close to us; people like our relatives, friends, or colleagues at work. But it can happen with total strangers too.
Which is why watching distressing news on TV causes your mood to dip, and the sadness you feel may be so intense as if you’re experiencing the distressing situation firsthand.
According to Dr. Heidi Hanna, a research fellow at the American Institute of Stress, merely seeing a stressed person causes your body to secrete stress hormones, leading you to experience unexplained stress and anxiety. It’s the body’s mechanism of showing empathy, which in turn can be harmful to our bodies. But you don’t have to be a victim of contagious stress and anxiety. Follow these simple tips and avoid falling prey to them:
Avoid Stress-Inducing Situations
Such situations may include spending time with negative friends, work colleagues or even relatives. Friends who are perpetually negative will always induce stress in you. It may seem a drastic step to take, but cutting off ties with them may be the only answer. This is especially if you’re unable to change their way of thinking. Friendship is important, but your health is even more important. You can try to avoid them as much as possible, or you will end up with chronic stress that may affect the quality of your life.
If it’s colleagues at work whose stress is rubbing off on you, try to change the situation, so you’re not in direct contact with them -like moving your desk to a different place. Or you can change your seat, so you’re not directly facing them. And if it’s their comments that are affecting your mental wellness, you could consider headphones that would block their voice from reaching you. Where you can, try to make changes discrete, so you don’t make the atmosphere at the workplace volatile.
Be Positive In Speech
Sometimes, your utterances can change a negative conversation to a positive one. If the person you’re talking to is somewhat negative, try to steer them toward positivity, or you may end up catching their negativity and feeling stressed.
Opening lines are particularly important. When starting off a conversation with a stressed person, start it with positive words. Chances are they will take cue, and you will have saved yourself from another case of contagious anxiety and stress. And not only starting the conversation but also maintaining it at a positive level, because a stressed person is likely to steer it otherwise, and you may find yourself taking their path. The danger is that it could cause you to feel sorry for them, and their stress will have as good as affected you.
Smile And Say Hi
Smiling at people and greeting them keeps you in high moods. And more so at the workplace or in your neighbourhood. It prevents you from being affected by their moods if they happen to be foul. It could even make them happy and have them transfer the happiness to you instead of the infectious stress. The secret is in being the first to say the Hi. It works like magic, especially when accompanied by a smile.
Exercise as first thing in the morning elevates your moods and gives you the energy to cope with the day’s challenges. Because exercise lowers the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, you can ward off contagious stress and anxiety. You will find yourself maintaining positivity even in the face of stressed colleagues at work or when in the company of stressed a friend or friends. Make exercising an everyday habit, and you will keep contagious anxiety and stress at bay.
Learn to Walk Away
If you are within a group of people who are causing you to feel stressed, it’s best to walk out. Do this in a wise way, so they don’t think you’re walking out on them. Like, for example, you can excuse yourself to grab some fresh air, or even visit the washrooms. It will help you to cool down, early enough before their negative energy sinks in you and raises stress hormone levels in your bloodstream.
Remember, once these stress hormones start circulating in your system, you cannot get rid of them immediately; it take several hours for them to clear. So it’s better to avoid their buildup in the first place and stay healthy.
Find Time For Solitude
Yes, solitude helps ease tension and reduce anxiety and stress. If done after work, all the tension you had picked at the workplace dissipates leaving you free and relaxed. It gives you an opportunity to look at your life and refocus. At the same time, it keeps you from meeting or seeing people who may pass their stress on to you. Where you choose to have your solitude need not be secluded though.
It can be anywhere, provided it’s free from sadness-inducing situations. You could go to amusement parks, scenic spots, or to sports grounds where there’s a sports activity. It will cheer you up and cause you to forget the stressful situations momentarily. Schedule the solitude times to occur every day, especially after work; you will see how beneficial it will be for your mental health. And how it keeps you away from negative friends.
With these practical tips, you can easily avoid catching stress and anxiety from other people; there’s no reason why their lives should affect you. And better still, the tips will also be of benefit to the people around you. For example, when you smile and greet them, you pass your joy to them and make their lives better, while at the same time making your life nicer.
Jessica is the founder of CareHappiness.com. She and her editors work to inspire, educate and empower our readers with all the latest updates and authentic information