How to Shield Yourself from Secondhand Stress


The roots of secondhand stress.

Ever had your perky mood instantly brought down by the negativity and complaints of co-workers around you causing you secondhand stress? Ever felt demotivated to go to work knowing you´d be entering a field of stress and toxicity for the rest of the day?

It´s no secret that our brains easily respond to emotional contagion, such as smiles, yawns, and yes, stress. The simple fact of observing someone who´s feeling stressed can directly affect our nervous system and spike up the levels of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”. You don´t even have to hear or see the stressed out person; you can smell them. That´s right, stress causes people to sweat out stress hormones, which are picked up by our olfactory senses. So, negativity at your workplace can literally drift right into your cubicle.

There usually isn´t much we can do to change the people or environment around us. But we do have the power to change our response and shield ourselves from those storms of negativity.


Here´s how:


Don´t engage in their drama.

Instead of feeding the stress, complaints or victimization by responding with comments such as “awwwwwwww” and ooey gooey “oh my god poor youuuu” or with an equally stressed out energy, try to bring back your focus on the task at hand or the subject of your work related interaction. You can even practice compassion for their state and ask if there is anything you can do to help them out.

Another way is to simply avoid interaction altogether whenever possible, until the storm has passed.


Don´t take it personal.

When someone´s stressed out, he or she might lash out at anyone or anything having the misfortune of being in his or her way. So don´t hook into it, even though it may push certain buttons of offensiveness, anger or insecurity within you. Keep in mind that it has nothing to do with you. This is their own projection.


Build your shield.

Create a positive routine every morning before going to work, such as writing down 3 things you are grateful for, writing an email praising someone or giving them love, doing a meditation or even some early morning exercise. “Exercise??!” You may ask. Yup! Exercise is one of the most effective ways to build self-esteem, as your brain records a victory every single time you exercise via the release of endorphins.



Here´s a quick and easy way to come into your center, no matter what your background or experience is.

It´s called the “Coming Home Breath” or the “Cleansing Breath”, by breath expert Dan Brule. The Coming Home Breath is basically an exaggerated sigh of relief. It involves a full expansive inhale with a quick and total release of the exhale. It´s actually a natural automatic response to a change in our physical, emotional or psychological state. When we move from a state of pain to no pain, or from fear to no fear, the sigh of relief naturally happens by itself. And when we consciously give ourselves a sigh of relief, we naturally move our system toward a state of comfort and pleasure.[1]

It´s a way to trick your mind into thinking “I made it home, I can relax now”. You know that breath you take when you´ve had a long day at work; you arrive home to your spouse or favorite pet and drop into your comfy chair, a nice drink in your hands….“aaaaaaaaaaaaah”.

This technique is a great and easy tool to use at work; unnoticed.


Create new and positive responses.

Instead of lashing out yourself in response to other people´s stressed energy, turn it around! Return your co-workers’ stressed nonverbals with a smile or a nod of understanding.


Avoid negative exposure to social media and news articles.

Continuous exposure to such frequency can easily spike up your cortisol levels and encourage your system to “tune into” stressful vibrations and thus easily respond to.


Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey

Work with and hang out as much as you can with people who have an uplifting energy, praising other people for their work or character instead of hanging out with the bullies, gossipers and complainers.



So here is our selection of ideas you can choose from in order to build a stronger immunity to stress. Remember, you can´t always change your environment, but you do have the power to choose your response and action to any situation

If you want to learn more about how to conduct real-time employee surveys without going crazy in the process visit to learn more about our Employee Engagement software, EPIC™


Schedule a demo to see how EPIC™ by Clarity Wave can help you have more engaged employees and improve your company’s culture.



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