If we could be immunized from stress, now would be a good time to do it! With the current events and media’s magnification and repetition of the worst of stories, not to mention social media, water cooler dialogue, and dinner time conversations, it is hard to not be stressed. And we can’t just walk away, or move to a different channel or another water cooler. It is everywhere!
A Harvard Business Review article, “Make Yourself Immune to Secondhand Stress” by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan presents some interesting ideas about immunizing ourselves from stress. The article described “secondhand” stress as the stress we pick up from those around us.
Author Heidi Hanna, in her book Stressaholic, describes this stress as hard wired in our ability to pick up threats in the environment. The stress experienced through others can be caused by previous experiences with that person or from subtle shifts in biological rhythms. The stress picked up from others may be experienced in heart and respiratory rate as well as a change in pheromones.
With all the stress surrounding us in the workplace, along with current events and everyday life and interactions, it’s easy to internalize all that stress and “take it on”. We are exposed to a constant barrage of negative communication through the traditional and social media.
Things are even more intense now with the political climate and general unrest in our world. The negative emotions and stress of others can be contagious and become part of our own functioning.
The world of positive psychology provides some clues about how to immunize ourselves from the impact of secondhand stress. The Harvard Business Review article used the term “emotional immune system” to describe the process of strengthening and protecting our emotional health. The article outlines suggestions to strengthen our stress immunity:
Create a positive mindset – view stress positively and stop fighting it. When stress is viewed negatively, one misses the opportunity to see that stress can improve relationships, heighten awareness, give us a sense of mastery and a heightened meaning in life.
Behaviors to create positive antibodies – Turn negative encounters in the workplace into positive ones with a positive response to verbal and non-verbal communication. Positive comments go a long way to diffuse and deflect negative energy and communication.
Self-esteem – The Harvard Business Review article pointed to positive self-esteem as an effective buffer to picking up the stress of others. Healthy self –esteem comes with confidence that you can handle situations you face. In the workplace this gives you the space to behave positively and not absorb others stress.
Prepare and practice– Healthy life habits along with practices borrowed from positive psychology help inoculate you from others’ stress. In the Harvard Business Review article, Shawn Achor suggests the following practices; praise a co-worker, write down three things you are grateful for, journal your positive experiences, meditate and participate in cardio exercise.
Putting boundaries around our emotional reactivity and curbing our responses to the stress of others in the workplace can help provide a healthy environment and a positive work culture.
Being able to do this in our home and social life will also help cultivate a less stressful atmosphere!
For more information and resources on over-all stress management and holistic well-being, contact us by clicking here.