Some days when I feel stressed about work deadlines, I complain to my husband about everything on my to do list. After a few minutes of listening to me vent, he tells me I'm stressing him out.
He may not be experiencing stress to the degree I am, but it doesn't surprise me that new research has found stress is contagious. It's pitiful but there's just so much to be stressed about these days — demanding clients, never ending streams of incoming email, huge bills from the vet or daycare provider, a parent that's showing signs failing health. Work life balance issues are a huge source of stress.
While we may not even realize it, we experience stress and then pass it on to others through what we say, the facial expressions we make and the way we physically show tension.
Research found when we become aware of stress of others, it sends a signal to our brain and our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol. It doesn't matter what's causing stress for our spouse, co-worker or best friend, it only matters that we observed the other person in a stressful situation. How strange is it that our bodies actually process other people's stress?
It's no wonder we're seeing shorter tempers and higher levels of impatience!
Of course, if isn't stressful enough that we pass stress on through personal interaction, now, there's a new way to expose others to our stress — social media.
Just today, I saw on Facebook that my friend's adorable dog Charley, has cancer. It worried me because I know she lives alone and has a close bond with her dog.
Pew Researchers are calling the heightened stress we're feeling from learning on social media about undesirable events affecting our friends or relatives "the cost of caring." They say this is adding to a growing pool of evidence suggesting stress is contagious.
So while we might be venting on social media to make ourselves feel better, our posts about rough patches or disappointing life events are stressing out the people near and dear to us.
In other words, while increased levels of stress have us searching for ways to blow off steam, we're blowing it right on to the people we count on to prop us up. Pathetic, right?
Think about how much stress we would save from multiplying if we just learned how to manage our stress through simple activities like breathing, walking or visualizing calm.
Or am I fooling myself by thinking it's that simple?