Is someone else’s stress, stressing you? Do you get infected by other people’s problems?

One of the best cures for stress is to talk through your problems but if you’re the sort of person people come to with their problems, you could find yourself being stressed simply by listening.

If you’re a repository for other people’s problems and find your own empathy causes you to absorb their stress, here are some tips to manage your own stress levels.

You can probably already identify the people who do this to you.  Often it’s the relationship problems of friends or family.  Sometimes it’s work related with colleagues or employees.

Your own stress levels increase because:

  • You may inadvertently mirror their body language, which makes you feel like they do
  • they steal time from you that you had already allocated to another task which leaves you running behind and feeling more stressed
  • you were trying to wind down yourself when they wanted to offload their problem on you
  • they’re repeating the same story you’ve already heard a dozen times before
  • they have put themselves in a situation that is totally alien to your values and beliefs and you have no framework to provide a solution

Some ideas to think about:

Watch your own posture, if you’re mirroring theirs make a conscious effort to be different.  Make sure your shoulders are back and you’re not joining them in a slump fest.  Try to relax and visualise a shield of positivity around you.

If you really haven’t got time to listen or you’re not feeling up to listening, be honest and tell them you can’t speak now but you’ll be happy to schedule a time when you’re less stressed yourself.

If it’s the same old story, it’s time to tell gently tell them you’ve heard it all before and they need to focus on something else.  Screen your calls and try to actively avoid them.  Friendships and relationships are like Banks, we make investments in each other and we take things out, if people are only takers, it’s time to re-think your relationship.

Sometimes the best way to help someone is to get them to reach their own conclusion.  Ask them what they would do if someone else came to them with that problem, what advice would they give?  Repeat back to them their solution.

Never fall into the trap of commenting on a third party’s behavior, you’re only making assumptions, prolonging the conversation and possibly making the problem worse.

Lastly, look after yourself.  If you didn’t manage any avoidance techniques and still feel stressed do something immediately to take your mind completely away from their problem.

Think of happy memories or something you’re looking forward to, imagine relaxing on a tropical beach, listen to calming music or read something or just talk to someone who you know won’t stress you out, simply take care of yourself.

Have you had this experience?  Have you found any good solutions?

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