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Is it my stress or yours?

Like all emotions, stress is contagious, It may not be the same as a virus, but stress will still get into our system and affect us in powerful ways.

So there you are, completely focused on a month-end report that you need to finish when Jona calls, really upset. Jona is ranting about how little support they get, how little appreciation is coming from others and how much there is to do. Jona isn’t expecting anything from you, you are just a place to vent. When you are alone again, you realise that you are now stressed, feeling destabilised and you find it hard to concentrate on your report. Jona’s stress has infected you!

When we sense someone else’s feelings, it fires up our own emotional brain which then generates chemicals of emotion, leading us to experience our own version of the other person’s emotions. This is also true for stress – it is contagious.

Many of us are very stressed these days, which is quite normal given our current circumstances. There are so many stressors – about the pandemic, job security, the economy and so on. So many small stressors affect us every day. For example, a stressed-out colleague may write a terse email, which your brain then reacts to. When working face-to-face you might be able to clear that up easily, but when working from home, without the benefit of a one-to-one conversation, your feelings fester and lead to increased stress. That stress may then be communicated to others you interact with, also causing them to feel stressed.

Whose stress is it?

Might you be picking up on other people’s stress when it has nothing to do with you? Might you be overly worried on other people’s behalf?

Here are a few tips to keep you from taking on other people’s stress.

  • Ask yourself: What am I really stressed about? Is this really my responsibility?
  • When it isn’t your responsibility or there is nothing you can do about the situation, set it aside. And keep reminding yourself that this is not YOUR business.
  • Focus on the things you can do something about.
  • Identify your own sources of stress and make sure they are not based on assumptions, your imagination or your fears.

Would you like to learn more about how to manage stress so you can feel calmer and do your best work? Rewired to Relate will show you the various ways stress chemicals are created and simple adaptations you can make so you stay calm, work better and collaborate well with others.

Rewired to Relate

Rewired to Relate goes straight to the heart of the matter: it reveals how the emotional brain drives most of our behaviour according to its needs and whims. The programme will teach you how to manage these impulses and to choose the impact you want to have on others.

find out more