Second-hand stress

The day of a highly contentious national election seems like the fitting time to talk about responding to stress in our environments.  In truth, I probably should have put this together months ago (because the campaign has been all sorts of fun, right?), and instead I’ll declare it a “better late than never.”  It’s not like stress is going away from any of our lives anytime soon either, if we’re completely honest.

If you think Facebook, Twitter, and listening to the news have all been stressing you out for the last few weeks, you’re completely right. Being around people who are stressed can stress us, even when it’s just observing that stress electronically. We’re perceiving threats and we go into fight or flight mode, even when the stakes don’t involve immediate survival.

Fortunately, HBR has a publication on making yourself immune to secondhand stress (as well as a one minute video if you don’t want to read today). To summarize their tips and tricks, here they are:

  • Change your mind– What I really mean here is to change your mindset.  If something is bothering you, you either need to change it or change how you are viewing it.  Complaining benefits no one, and if anything it scares people off because you get seen as being a “negative Ned.”  Don’t be that guy.
  • Create positive responses to stresses when they happen– Someone glaring in a meeting? Smile at them (no, really, do it!  It’s fun!). Lead your conversations with others in a positive way (“How can I help you today?”) versus a negative opener (“I’m way too busy for this right now.”). What kind word or show of patience can you provide today?  This is NOT hard, it does not cost money, and it makes you feel great.  Try it!
  • Build your copamine- You can handle these bad days.  You CAN.  The proof lies in the fact that you’ve survived all of the prior bad days. And if that reminder isn’t enough for you, why don’t you go for a walk/ run/ swim/ bike ride/ dogwalk/ yoga practice?
  • Practice positive habits– It’s not just about these habits being “good” habits; they are habits that when built make you more positive.  Want to know what they are?  Here’s a TED talk to help you learn.  Oh, and if you need a mediation resource, check out Headspace, and not just for Andy’s awesome accent.

Feel free to use any of these tricks today for the election, tomorrow at work, or any time that you realize you want to be in a better space.  Do not let the world get you down!