How Your Stress Affects Your Friendships

  • Stress can be a positive thing in your life. But is your stress affecting those around you?

Stress is a normal and sometimes positive part of your life. Stress helps with making deadlines and showing up in time for a class final. But did you know you can also feel stressed after spending time with a stressed-out person, its called secondhand stress. Not only do you experience it, but it rubs off on your friends and family too. Sound stressful? Yeah it is, but the more you know about secondhand stress the better.

Stress and Your Friendships - Stressful work desk - StationaryStress Can Be Good for You

According to new research from Stanford University, by assistant professor of psychology Alia Crum, stress can actually be a helpful part of your life. Even high levels of stress can be associated with better health, emotional well-being and productivity at school or at work. Many of the problems associated with stress comes from viewing it as a negative thing rather than as something positive in your life. Stress keeps you alert, alive and ready for anything that life throws your way. Focusing on stress as something helpful that your body does naturally, is a blessing. It gives you information and if recognize that everyone deals it, it becomes more manageable. This can remove many of the fears that come from stress and help you learn it and channel your stress in a positive way.

Normal levels of stress allow you to take on challenges and deal with problems quickly, but too much stress can be bad for your health. Chronic stress that keeps you up at night damages both your brain and body. The effects of chronic stress are linked to depression, heart disease, cancer and other physical and mental health issues. Chronic stress is be insidious and many things can trigger it, from work, to trouble with friends or school or even relationships.

How Exactly Does Your Stress Affect Your Friendship?

Unlike stress in your life, secondhand stress appears from interacting with stressful people around you. Research at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and Clemens Kirschbaum from the Dresden University of Technology, found that those observing someone in a stressful situation triggers a stress response in them too! Of those observing the stressed-out subjects, 26% showed a significant increase in cortisol, and most observers reported feeling tense, anxious, and uncomfortable. The effect was stronger when the observ
er had a relationship with the participant (40%).

So how does this affect you? Depending on school, family, and friends, you may find yourself interacting frequently with stressed out or anxious people. This doesn’t just impact you; those who love and care about you are also at risk from your stress. Stress affects your friends just as much as it does you when you let it take over your life.

Stress and your friendships - Upset Girl
The more self-aware you are of stressful situations in your everyday life, the more you can begin to make changes in how you respond to stress and manage it. Whether or not you feel like you work well under stress, your body, brain and others around you may think otherwise.

Five Ways to Deal with Your Stress

  1. Identify triggers. Learn what your body feels like in situations that are causing you stress. The next time you feel stressed, slow yourself down enough to acknowledge, name it and think about how it makes you feel physically and emotionally.
  2. Adjust your autopilot response. Coping skills, cognitive behavioral techniques, mindfulness, and mediation can all be helpful for incorporating effective coping skills into your life, so that stress doesn’t continue to wear away at your body and mind, and negatively affect your friends and family.
  3. Take control over your physical health. Make sure your brain and hormones are balanced, your stomach is in good shape and your diet isn’t impacting your health. When you are getting the right nutrients and your body is able to absorb them, it helps you combat intense emotions. The more caffeine you drink, the more foods you eat that cause a histamine response in your system (anything you are allergic or sensitive to), or a diet heavy in processed foods will make you easily susceptible to stress.
  4. Start a healthy habit to fight stress. Whether you love running, yoga, writing in a journal, or mediation, do something to help you get rid of the stress you experience. An everyday practice of doing 5 minutes of mediation or stretching, with the intention to release stress, can make a big impact on your brain chemistry. Schedule YOU time: Whether that’s going to get a blowout, a manicure, or hitting up your favorite class at the gym. These fun things matter and help clear your mind, release stress and allow space in your mind for new creative ideas to form.
  5. Practice relaxation techniques. Therapists swear by combining deep breathing with visual imagery. It increases oxygen to your brain, physiologically calming you down and allowing you to move on quickly to the next task without getting overwhelmed. You can download a meditation, surf YouTube for guided visualizations and even Spotify has great playlists for getting mindful.

When you are feeling overwhelmed others feel it too. Your stress affects your friends, and they would much rather be around a happy person than a stressed out one. Get a handle on it now before it affects you mentally and physically. Others will notice, and you will too!


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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is The Guidance Girl. Her goal is to help YOU become the most confident person you know! Emily is an award-winning author Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, Educational Speaker, and parenting consultant. She travels around the country educating girls, women, and parents. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.

About the Author:

Emily Roberts, M.A., LPC is a Psychotherapist, Parenting Consultant, Educational Speaker and Published Author. Her Book Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are was published by New Harbinger Publications. The Guidance Girl is a concept created by Emily as an innovative, powerful approach to help you achieve goals and feel your best by redefining traditional therapy for the girls and women of today.

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