It’s an intriguing topic – whether or not we can suffer from secondhand stress, as described in a recent Huff Post article on the subject.
Frankly, I wonder if I’m causing stress to those I love, one in particular. My stress – with its reasons – nonetheless spilling over on him. Does he show the impacts? Does he internalize them? Can I find a way to cordon off my stress so it doesn’t somehow infect the people I care about?
How does stress affect you? Are you aware of impacting others? More than you may realize?
How Do You Respond Under Stress?
When I’m stressed, I pace, I grow quiet, I disappear into my head.
I sleep little, I eat too much, or I eat nothing at all.
I’m more easily distracted. I’m fussy. I’m snappish. I’m the first one to agree that I’m not much fun to be around. And sex? Are you kidding? Who has time, the energy, or the inclination?
Of course all of this is a matter of the cause, the seriousness, the duration of the stress. Often, I try to isolate myself so that those I care about aren’t around me, at least until the stress lifts – and I can smile and relax and enjoy.
But what if that isolation is causing problems? What if my spillovers of quiet or crankiness are more harmful than I imagine? I stress contagious in insidious ways like secondhand smoke?
What is Secondhand Stress?
In Are You Suffering From Secondhand Stress?,” we’re given an explanation of just what that means:
… ‘Secondhand stress’ is a stress response that is triggered by someone else’s behavior,” explained Jordan Friedman, MPH, stress management speaker, author and founder of thestresscoach.com.
The article cites another experting, explaining:
We may be seeing the other person’s behavior as a threat to our environment, said Heidi Hanna, Ph.D., a fellow with the American Institute of Stress and author of the upcoming book Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship With Stress. “When we become aware of stress that others carry around us, it sends a very clear signal that we, too, should be worried,” she explained.
Someone else’s worries – someone close to us in particular – means we’re likely to worry, too. We worry about that person. We’re likely impacted by the circumstances of their life if we’re close to them.
So what does this mean when money troubles persist in a household – often the single mom’s dilemma – and the children are dealing indirectly with the fall-out?
What about the man constantly job-scared, as he tries to provide and his spouse is working as well, and everything they’re focused on day-to-day survival? What about his stress that spills over in raised temper or moodiness? Her stress that manifests in fatigue or depression? What about the fighting that may escalate when the household is bubbling over with stress – the silent, suffocating sort – or something that is characterized by periodic outbursts or mood swings?
The bottom line: I haven’t given much thought to how my stress levels are affecting those I spend time with, when I can’t isolate myself from them, particularly when I’m wrapped up in deadlines or concerns that have me preoccupied – and clearly putting out the stress vibe.
Life in the Stress Lane
Life in the Fast Lane?
Sometimes, it feels that way. We rush from task to task, from work to home, from work to a quick hour with a spouse or partner or date. We hurry to ready the kids for school and get them there, on to work or household tasks or the computer, all in our efforts to be responsible, to pay the bills, not to mention attempting to be “all things to all people.”
Really, it’s life in the Stress Lane. But how must it feel to our families, our colleagues, our friends?
Do they feel less important or dismissed as we barely pay attention to them? Do they absorb our frenzied pace or our quiet but clear anxiety? What is the stress overload – secondhand stress – doing to our relationships?
And the damage to libido? To our sex lives? To the intimacy that is left by the wayside?
Secondhand stress is something I need to think about it. I need to think beyond my own stress management to the effects on those I love and those I work with. The very nature of this issue is, for me, eye-opening.
I recommend the article at Huff Post. You may recognize yourself (as I did), and it’s filled with tips for containing the stress.
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