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Stress is contagious, but so is happiness

Stress is contagious, but so is happiness



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Write a report for work. Drive home in traffic. Take care of a family.

These are just a few of the stresses that individuals face each day.

Stress is a huge part of life and can affect our abilities to perform well at work, school and at home. According to a 2008 Gallup poll, 10 percent of Americans experience stress that overwhelms their lives. Many do not realize that emotions like stress don't just hurt the individual feeling the stress but can affect those around them, both positively and negatively.


Have you ever started smiling when you heard a friend laugh? Or felt sad because someone you cared about was crying? Infectious emotions can bring joy as well as frustration.

Healthy individuals look for ways in which to cope with negative emotions and encourage positive emotions in themselves and others.

There are times when the way that we express our emotions can be unhealthy to ourselves and to those that are around us. Stress can overwhelm us and cause us to react to others in a negative way, such as lashing out in anger or speaking negatively to others. Thankfully, stress can be a positive thing, pushing individuals to do their best and succeed in their goals and dreams.

Stress can be either external or internal. External stress exists in an individual's environment and includes such things as traffic, disabilities or genetics -- things that we have no control over. Internal stress can be caused by the way that we view ourselves, our self-esteem and evaluation of self. These are things that we can learn to control.

We can face both causes of stress in healthy ways by practicing coping skills. The key to relieving stress is to evaluate the situation by asking yourself these questions when you feel stress:

What is causing me to feel this way?

Identity the cause of the stress. Oftentimes, the answers are simple: work, school, being late.

Can I control or change the stress?

Determine whether or not this is something you can change. Don't stress about things that you can't control, like traffic. But if it is something that you can change, then begin to do so.

Here is a list of coping strategies inspired by "Health: The Basics", a college textbook by Rebecca Donatelle. You can use these or develop coping strategies of your own:

  • Focus on the positive about yourself, others and your stress. This changes the way you think about stressors and restructures how you feel about stress.
  • Don't expect superhuman standards. Expect yourself and others to do their best, but remember that perfection is usually impossible.
  • Find friends or family to turn to when things become overwhelming.
  • Manage your time by keeping a planner.

Because our minds and bodies are interconnected, you can relieve mental stress by physically moving your body. Donatelle said that this is because of the connection that our bodies have with the "fight or flight" mechanism. Your body faces stress by either building up to face it or by running away from it.

Engaging in some of the following physical activities can actually release that mental pressure:

  • Take a short walk during your lunch break
  • Stretch your muscles
  • Go to the gym with a friend
  • Sleep
  • Take time to relax: Listen to music, watch a movie, take a bath or practice deep breathing.

Spread positive emotions by engaging in a task or past time you regularly enjoy and integrate it in a constructive way to help release some of the overwhelming feelings that stress can bring.

Take life's lemons and turn them into lemonade that everyone will enjoy.

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Anne Squire is currently a junior at UVU studying English with an emphasis in literature and a minor in music.

Anne Squire

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