Knew it existed.. didn’t know it had an actual name. Second hand stress is the emotional and physical response we experience because of someone else’s stress and anxiety. A test back in 2009 found that exposing people to pheromones in simple stress sweat could trigger the fear center of their brains even when there was nothing stressful or scary occurring. Other studies have shown that second hand stress can be even more physically debilitating, and longer lasting, than one’s own stress- which makes sense as we have much less control (or no control at all) over someone else’s situation.
Which got me thinking- why not implement our simple, commonly practiced, Pandemic prevention techniques in an effort to mitigate second hand stress?
WEAR A “MASK”– While it’s totally understandable to feel your spouse’s stress if he loses his job or your friend’s stress if she’s getting a divorce, these days (thanks to social media) our stress nets are cast out much, much farther. We are constantly exposed to stressful images and information that can not only trigger second hand stress, but cause us to live in a constant state of low grade anxiety and depression. Imagine yourself wearing a mask, blocking out the random stress provoking stuff you casually and unconsciously absorb every day on the radio, on TV and on the internet. If stress sweat pheromones can cause our amygdala to kick into overdrive, you’d better believe cable TV barkers can.
“WASH YOUR HANDS” – of other people’s problems. Hear me out now..this doesn’t mean we don’t get involved in, or care about, the world’s issues, it just means we develop techniques to help prevent ourselves from dragging that stress back into our own homes where we spread it to our loved ones. It’s the equivalent of using mental hand sanitizer – go ahead and get out there, be involved, do your thing.. just give yourself a good squirt of emotional cleanser and a thorough soul rinse before you unlock the front door to your personal life.
STAY 6 FEET APART – Let’s be honest, some folks are just “looking for it” these days. We all have that relative, friend or co-worker who is constantly trying to rope us in to some political or social tête-à-tête. How do those conversations end..do they ever? Why not just give that person the 6 feet YOU deserve to protect your mental health?
Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay six feet apart..do your part to fight stress!!! 😀