Pat Katz Pat Katz




PAUSE – 15.26 – Short Circuit Second Hand Stress

Stress-wReflection: Members of a public service group once described to me the impact one of their leaders had on the entire team. This leader was highly unpredictable. One day he would arrive at work – all smiles and sunshine. The next day he would barge through the door with a heart of darkness – tossing glares, mean words and criticisms left and right as he made his way down the hall to his office.

Net result? Members of the team kept their heads down (literally cowering at their desks) until the boss arrived, and they knew which way the wind would blow that day.

I was reminded of this experience when I read Achor and Gielan’s article on Secondhand Stress in Harvard Business Review.

They describe how our brains are wired for emotional contagion. The up side is that this makes us empathetic towards others. However, there is a shadow side. We end up absorbing negative emotions, stress and uncertainty just like second hand smoke.

Being in the presence of someone who is highly stressed and stressful has a negative impact on our own nervous systems. We start pumping high levels of cortisol through our bodies just by virtue of being a bystander to someone else’s stress.

You might have noticed this phenomenon yourself. The challenge is how to deal with it.


Action: Here are three ways to inoculate yourself against second hand stress.

  • Opt for a more positive mindset about the stress of another instead of resisting its presence. See it as an opportunity to choose to feel compassion instead of fear.
  • Bolster your immunity by reminding yourself of your own strength and resilience in times past.
  • Make positive investments throughout your day. Get some exercise. Practice gratitude, praise others, and take note of positive experiences.


Quotes Of The Week: Enjoy these quotes from Terri Guillemets:

Don’t let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries.

Like steam from a cup of hot tea that fogs our glasses, false urgency of matters at hand blurs our vision to important things in the distance.


Resource Of The Week: Here’s the link to Achor and Gielan’s complete HBR article: Make Yourself Immune To Second Hand Stress


Share Your Story: In case you missed it in last week’s Pause, I’m inviting you (and all Pause readers) to tell me about a time when a fresh challenge, direction, or interest rekindled your excitement and enthusiasm at work or in your personal, family or community life.

I’ll be including some of these real life examples in the presentations I’m creating on Tapping Into Passion – Navigating Mid Life Malaise.

Just send me an email ( with the word, Spark, in the title. Describe: What was your spark? What triggered it, or how did you stumble upon it? And what kind of impact did this fresh engagement have on you and those around you?

To express my thanks, one lucky story contributor will receive a copy of the book: Life Reimagined. Good luck and thanks to all!



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Life Balance, Overload & Overwhelm, Wellness

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