Coping With Secondhand Stress

Coping With Secondhand Stress

Stressful relationship

Coping With Secondhand Stress

Right now more than ever, we are living in a world where it is all too easy to experience secondhand stress. Despite the fact that most of us are experiencing it on a near-daily basis, plenty of people don’t even realize that secondhand stress really exists. Our modern world is beautiful because it allows us to effortlessly connect with people from all around the globe, but there are some surprising drawbacks to this issue. Secondhand stress is one of them, and it is one that you must address if you want to be an effective support system or ally for those around you.

Understanding Secondhand Stress

In order to successfully cope with secondhand stress, you must first understand it. Secondhand stress is a phenomenon where you absorb the high-intensity emotions of the people around you. Most of us know by now that it is incredibly easy to get caught up in the emotions of our environments in-person or even online. This is why it is better to be in a room of happy people rather than a room of people who have just experienced something upsetting. Even sporting events can show us just how easily emotional energy can travel in a room. Though this can be a good thing, it can also be bad. If you’re absorbing the negative emotions of those around you, chances are that you won’t feel great yourself.


Identifying What Is Causing Secondhand Stress

Coping with secondhand stress is largely dependent on your ability to understand sources. Most of us have experienced an instance where someone that we care about is going through something terrible and is just absolutely fixated on it. Try as we might, sometimes being around those people can just feel like too much and we end up needing a break. This is secondhand stress, but this isn’t the only way that we can get it.

In the modern age, secondhand stress is much easier to come by. We all spend time on social media, where people can share their experiences with the world. Though there are plenty of great things that go viral, there is no denying that a lot of viral topics are built around suffering and injustice. It is great that we can all share this information and be more aware, but for a lot of us, it can lead to secondhand stress for thousands of people that we don’t even know. If you start to feel secondhand stress, consider looking around you. What are you exposing yourself to that might be causing it?

Identify What You Can Do To Help

An effective way to cope with secondhand stress is to help the source. When we see someone hurting, it is human nature to want to help them. For you, this might be a great way to help with your secondhand stress. Taking active steps to help the situation is effective in helping you to feel less helpless. For a lot of us, it is this feeling of helplessness that can cause such high-stress levels. We see something bad and we want to help, but we don’t really know how. Taking proactive steps toward offering assistance can help tremendously. Whether it is taking the time to help a friend cope, donating to a worthy cause, or even just sharing awareness or taking steps to educate yourself, you can help boost your mental health and feel energized to offer more aid.

Remind Yourself That You Can Only Do So Much

A common sentiment shared among lifelong volunteer workers is that there is always more work to do. Many volunteers head out with aspirations of helping people and learn very quickly that they can only do so much. One person can make a tremendous difference, but one person cannot do all the work themselves. For this reason, a lot of volunteers experience severe burnout. It can be really difficult to realize that you can’t actually fix a problem yourself. Remind yourself that you can only do so much, and some days you will be able to do a little more. Burning out won’t help your cause, so don’t let it happen.

Take Time Away From Certain Situations

For a lot of us, we feel unbelievable levels of guilt over the idea of taking a break from something. When a friend loses a loved one, we feel bad for not being able to be there with them every moment while they grieve. We feel bad for smiling over personal success when others are still suffering in the background. The simple fact is that you can’t do this to yourself. No matter how badly you want to help, it is important to take a step back from secondhand stress triggers regularly. Even if it is just an hour where you don’t look at anything that causes you to stress, it can help. Give yourself some time away to remember what is good in the world or you will end up losing hope for your cause. It’s a mental health must.

Remind Yourself Of The Good Being Done

A great way to cope with secondhand stress and your own limitations is to remember the good being done. It means taking the time to acknowledge that even though there is a lot more that needs to be done, steps are being made. People are getting better. People are uniting. More importantly, people are trying. Personal situations can’t be fixed in a single day. The state of the world won’t miraculously change overnight. There is so much work to be done, but progress has already been made. Focus on this to remind yourself why you’re in it for the long-haul. Many before you have faced feeling like it might be hopeless and those are the same people who did amazing things.


As we move towards a future where we are all more united towards our causes and try a little harder to support those that we love, it is important to take care of ourselves along the way. There will always be hard times and there will always be bad in the world. However, if we are going to fight for what we love and work against those things, we need to be fit to face them. Take care of yourself and manage your secondhand stress so that you can support those that need you. Fight for yourself so that you can fight for others. Embrace the cycle.