TODAY   |  April 02, 2014

You may be ‘catching’ stress from other people

Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, an expert on stress management, and psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert explain that stress is often highly contagious because we are programmed to be empathetic towards others. They say it’s important to manage stress in your own life and establish boundaries around negative people

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> familiar? your husband comes home from work complaining about his job. your friend calls you just to vent.

>> while you're lending an ear, you know stress is contagious. they could be spreading theirs to you.

>> take a look at this scene from friends when rachel starts to stress about planning monica's shower.

>> we can't do this by friday. we have to find a place, invite people, get food. we cannot do it. we cannot do it.

>> rachel, calm down.

>> you're right. i'm sorry.

>> calm down woman.

>> i already did.

>> then i need to calm down.

>> i love that show. it's true.

>> here our stress management expert and jonathan alpert author of "be fareless and change".

>> it is contagious.

>> joy is, the opposite.

>> that's a good point. it is totally contagious. we are programmed for that because it saves us. if one of us is stressed we need to feel that to know how to protect ourselves.

>> here's an example. you're at a dinner table at a restaurant. one person realizes how late the food is. everyone is just talking. suddenly everyone gets jacked up going where's the waiter, what's taking so long?

>> that's a good point. this winter, everyone talking about how cold it was and start add asking when is the winter going to end?

>> that's a chemical thing in people. i have it. it did last much longer than usual. so how do we counter act dr.

>> bringing attention to it is part of the problem. bring attention to things that make you stronger and build resilience. i call it space suit you put on when around people that are toxic and bring you down. make your boundaries and keep yourself whole inside there.

>> i feel if you see someone in stress you immediately stress for them.

>> that's how we're programmed to do that. that's how we relate and connect to people. if you're with someone who's complaining about their job or relationship, listen, be em pathetic but try to direct them to a more positive place. they don't want to hear it, but they're reinforcing the negativity.

>> what if it's not a friend you can avoid but a family member? you're basically stuck with that individual.

>> family is different. redirect them, be em pathetic, be supportive. maybe ask, have you thought about doing xyz. by doing that you show support and love.

>> should you push -- you can't push family members out -- but other people constantly stressing you out. is it best to say i'm shutting this down because i know how i feel around these people?

>> there's a point of surrounding people that support our life. if you have a choice, if it's not your best family member or someone -- your boss or someone you have to encounter, there's a point to limiting activity with that person. proactively set your boundaries and say i know this person triggers me. i'm going to take a breath, take care of myself.

>> they say you attract what's in you.

>> people most vulnerable can't take care of their own needs and put everyone else's ahead of their own. these are people pleasers.

>> i just prayed. i find that works.

>> that's important. that's going to the bigger picture.

>> it's too big and i can't deal with it. here you go.

>> that's one of the best stress management tips.