By: Eileen Guo
Stress sucks. It’s an omnipresent feeling that can leave us tired, lonely, and generally unpleasant. What’s worse? It doesn’t just affect the stressed person, it can also have an impact on those around us. As much as we rely on our friends and family members to support us, we don’t want our stress to negatively affect their lives.
Stress really can be thought of as contagious, as strange as that sounds. Bill Leavitt, a Southern California-based therapist who specializes in dealing with stress, suggests thinking of it this way: “Have you ever been in a crowded supermarket or doctor’s office with a screaming child? The child is feeling maximum stress and letting the world know about it. The parent in charge of the child is definitely feeling it, and so is everyone around the situation.”
Makes sense, right? A stressful environment can affect you, even if you’re not directly experiencing the stress yourself. The same is true for anyone who’s around you when you’re stressed. If you want to avoid turning your home, office, or girls’ night out into a tension-fest, consider some of the ways you might be holding onto your stress — and how you can let go.
How your stress affects the people around you has a lot to do with how you let it manifest. For example, some people self-isolate or shut down when they’re in a stressful situation. It’s easy to come home day after day from something stressful—whether it be work, school, anything—and hide under the covers with Netflix and a bowl of popcorn. Sometimes, in our desire to not weigh people down, we hide from them. But, Leavitt says, this can cause our relationships to suffer, since we’re not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.
Or, perhaps you do the opposite: When you’re crazy overwhelmed, you like to unwind, let loose, and go out drinking every night. Leavitt says this can have a similar negative impact on friends and family, as you spin out of control.
It’s crucial to find healthy ways to manage your stress. Leavitt suggests breathing techniques like his Four-Fold Breath, meditating, or journaling. “It’s critical especially whenever our thoughts are catastrophic or black-and-white and we need to re-characterize them.”
However, it is important to remember that stress is not a concrete thing that we can carry around in our pockets. How stress affects anyone, depends on how they are creating stress in their lives.