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How to handle secondhand stress at work (it’s a real thing!)

Studies show that secondhand stress is real and is a major challenge in the workforce. Negativity is contagious, so here are some tips on how to deal.

stress control freak

Secondhand stress is as real as secondhand smoke

Everyone realizes the danger of secondhand smoke, but new research suggests that most people are just as susceptible to secondhand stress and negative emotions. Seeing or hearing someone, whether it’s a family member, co-worker, or stranger who is anxious and stressed affects your own mood and demeanor.

Two different research groups studied this phenomenon. They found that you’re much more likely to respond to a loved one who is exhibiting stress than you are when it’s a stranger, but the reaction still exists.

This is why many companies are implementing no-venting zones for employees who deal with customers and clients. A stressed healthcare provider may negatively affect a patient who doesn’t need any added anxiety.

How to realistically deal with this challenge

We run into people all day long who don’t manage their stress effectively, so you have a couple of options. You could live in a bubble, closing your office door and shutting out the world. Or, you could build your immunity and inoculate yourself by learning to live with less stress.

  • Work on your own self-esteem. When you are confident, you are less likely to be impacted by the moods of others.
  • Exercise increases endorphins to your body, which builds self-esteem.
  • Start your morning with positive thinking. Meditate, journal, or exercise.
  • Change your mindset about stress. Instead of being frustrated with the slow cashier, be compassionate. Use the time in line to clear your mind.
  • Create the positive atmosphere that you want to work in. Respond to coworkers who are harried with, “Is there something I can do to help?”

You have the power to turn this all around

If you are one of the people who have a problem managing stress, watch what you do and say throughout the day. Instead of starting out a phone conversation with “I’m so busy and stressed,” ask the person how they are doing, or tell them it’s nice to talk to them.

You have the power to create positive encounters, but you need to be proactive and prepare yourself to deal with the negativity. Take steps to manage your environment, so that you don’t infect others and don’t let people change your mood.

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Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

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