Stress is a contagious virus

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Louise Hay

Stress is a contagious virus

Experts say that those who are victims of other people's stress suffer from so-called "second-hand stress".

Last update: February 03, 2022

It is often said that nothing is as contagious as a bad mood. Living with a person who is used to constant attacks, negative value judgments and constant criticism ends up undermining us to an almost desperate point.

You have certainly experienced it firsthand on a few occasions. You will know what a simple smile full of joy and sincerity can do, it infects us instantly with a clearly positive emotion.

And what about stress? Did you know that this dimension is by no means a "virus" that is almost as contagious as bad mood? Experts say that those who suffer from other people's stress suffer from so-called "second-hand stress". Curious, no doubt, but we shouldn't minimize it for this, because it can be just as dangerous.

The stress of the people around us

Let's take a simple example. We live with a partner who, for work reasons, is exposed to many pressures, many obligations, goals to be achieved and demands.

Gradually, this work stress also extends to the family environment. His mood changes, the moments shared at home are full of tension, he sleeps badly at night and the way he treats us is different too. How will we feel?

We will notice a certain suffocation due to the circle of stress and anxiety, the house will become a small black hole in which communication will suffer and the shared moments in common will no longer have the quality of before.

Frustration and anxiety will appear and, almost without realizing it, we will have contracted the other person's stress. This is demonstrated by research conducted at the Dresden University of Technology. Tania Singer, scientist and director of the project, explains that a person subjected to high stress can generate the same response in others.

It should be noted that some people are more sensitive than others, but in general, living or spending a lot of time with a stressed person will significantly increase cortisol levels in the blood.

And beware, there is another fact that we cannot ignore: i children are the most vulnerable to this type of stress, which parents can pass on to them at home.

Manage it together

We could say at this point that the most common stress we can come across is what we experience at home. It is possible that the source is work and the pressures that come with it. Problems that are beyond us and that we then project into our family life.

Many times we fall into stress almost without realizing it, we go faster and faster, we prioritize some things over others putting even more pressure on ourselves.

We eat badly, we sleep badly and we project our anxiety onto the people around us, including children. We no longer have time for what's really important. What can we do?

If someone very close to us is experiencing a period of high stress, we should point it out to them. It is common to ignore it, to think that it is normal, that this pressure is necessary to achieve goals.

It should be made clear that there is no greater goal than one's own balance, than life itself. And more so if that state affects others. We must show them the cause of their personal situation in themselves and in others.

It is worthwhile to help them set limits and understand, in essence, what is important: health, tranquility, balance, the affection of the family, of the partner, the well-being of the little ones.

If we are influenced by the stress of a colleague, friend or family member, we need to point this out. Let's show him the need to give another rhythm to his life, otherwise he will end up losing health and he will also see that the people around can move away. It is also necessary to “open the protective umbrella”.

Keep calm and avoid being influenced by the reactions, anxiety, unbridled rhythms of others ... be patient and convey adequate calm which the other person can benefit from.

If you see that it is impossible and that you are losing health due to that person not allowing themselves to be helped, or not adopting strategies for improvement, you will have to make a decision. Your balance and your happiness come first.

Image courtesy: Alejandra Niedermaier.

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