Don’t Let Secondhand Stress Affect Your Mood

Our brains are hardwired to pick up on and spread others’ emotions. Whether it’s an angry taxi driver or a harried boss, just seeing someone look stressed can make us feel anxious too. This is a real problem in open office plans, where you can see everyone’s nonverbal expressions, so it’s important to find ways to deal with secondhand stress.

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Here are some things to try:

Change your response. Instead of being frustrated at negative people, try to feel compassion or help that person become more positive.
Create positive antibodies to neutralize negativity. If a stressed colleague grimaces at you, return it with a smile. Start a phone call with “It’s great to talk to you” instead of “I’m so busy.”
Inoculate yourself. Before going into stressful environments, think of three things you’re grateful for. Reminding yourself that things are going well can be a powerful buffer against stress.

Adapted from “Make Yourself Immune to Secondhand Stress,” by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan.

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