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Tips for Avoiding Catching Negative Stress
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, June 2013

Have you ever had a day when you feel terrific, optimistic, bright, and then, after only a short time in the presence of someone who is engaged in their own downward spiral, you are, within minutes, no longer optimistic and in danger of drowning in their pool of distress?

If you've ever wondered if stress is contagious, it is. We are extremely sensitive to one another's energy fields. Protecting ourselves against the impact of someone else's negative stress response is a healthy way of caring for our own well-being. Rather than drowning, you can devise a method for preserving your own spirit, perhaps by temporarily removing yourself from the person who is stressed out just so you won't "catch" their mood and keep yourself centered.

If you do not do this, your outlook can change for the worse, so you not only share the gloom but you are unable to help the other person. Additionally, your physical, mental, and emotional reserves can be depleted.

Protect yourself without losing your ability to empathize with someone you care about by following these tips:

Do Not Take On Their Problems. - You can offer sincere help and support without taking on their moods as your own. It is not your responsibility to make people happy or less stressed. You can empathize with and support them, and perhaps help them respond in ways that make them feel stronger and calmer. You can stress yourself out by setting unreasonable goals. Set limits on what you can do.

You Can't Solve Their Problems. - Only they are the ones who can truly make changes in their lives; your role can be to guide, if they are open, and support. Ask what you can do to help. If the response is nothing, do not assume that you know what to do. It may be better to leave them alone, breath and center yourself, and in your own mind keep yourself calm and send them healing thoughts.

Remove Yourself. - Removing yourself from their "energy field" can help you protect and rejuvenate yourself. You are not abandoning this person. Think of it as helping yourself so that you can help both of you at this moment and in the future.

Communicate. - Inform your loved one how their response affects you. They may be surprised.

Protect yourself without losing your ability to empathize with someone you care about.

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