Think of someone in your life who makes you feel good no matter what. Everything in your life can feel like it’s falling apart, yet this person knows exactly what to say to make you feel better. They exude positive energy and can help you improve your mood faster than you can say, “I’m so stressed.” Now, think about people who you feel tense or stressed out around. These are the people you feel on edge with, for example, a boss who walks in the office and barks at you, a perpetually grumpy friend, or an unpredictable colleague who could explode at any moment. How do you feel? My guess is you start to feel a bit stressed and tense just thinking about them.
In the examples above, empathy is at play. When you’re around your positive friend you connect and relate to him or her. When you’re around the miserable boss, you’re tense because you’re picking up on his tension, maybe even trying to understand him, and it doesn’t make you feel good. Empathy can be a wonderful thing, and it can protect us. Case in point: If someone is panicked because of a dangerous situation such as a fire, then we pick up on it, understand the situation, and we act accordingly. Empathy, though, can also be detrimental to our mental health. Repeated exposure to negativity can wear us out, exhaust us, and lead to stress-related issues such as headaches, stomachaches, and muscle aches.
People who can’t set boundaries. These are people who involve themselves in several aspects of other peoples’ lives. They have trouble saying no and they are people pleasers. They may also have rescue fantasies and want to help others, even if it means at the expense of their own needs. People pleasers in particular should learn how to recognize it and deal with it.
Men and woman handle stress differently. Women tend to talk, confide, and seek comfort from people. Men though are usually doers and will take action. So often couples see me and a big complaint from women is that they just want their man to listen and be supportive and not offer advice as he so often does.
Next time you encounter stress, think about it: Do you want to perpetuate it or be the antidote?
Originally published at www.inc.com