LOS ANGELES — You have heard of second-hand smoke, but how about second-hand stress? As it turns out it is as contagious as the common cold but with much more serious consequences.
“There’s the stressor and the stressee. I’m the stressee,” said Larry Stack said, who suffered a massive heart attack three years ago.
“The primary reason was stress,” he said. “I was lucky by one day that I’m still even alive.”
It’s called second-hand stress and you can get it from your co-worker, your boss and even your spouse.
“Probably the worst culprits are the people who don’t know they’re stressed and they’re just walking through rooms spreading stress around wherever they go,” said Martin Boroson, author of the book “One Moment Meditation”.
Experts say second-hand stress is as contagious as a cold — but can have much more serious health consequences.
“If you’re with someone, for example, who is angry or who is stressed then you may start to feel that way as well,” said Cardiologist Dr. Merle Myerson.
Myerson treated Stack and said that second-hand stress was a big factor in his heart attack.
“Constant stress can raise blood pressure. It can also increase the risk for having a heart attack or having coronary artery disease,” Myerson said.
When his colleagues were stressed out, Stack said he froze.
“I didn’t address it, I would keep it in,” he said.
“Look at the reaction of people around him, they’re afraid. Their day has been stopped. They don’t know how to handle him,“ Boroson said referring to a video of an office worker pounding on a copy machine.
But how would you handle something as stressful as that?
“If you focus on something neutral like your breath, then you just gently kind of create a clearing in your mind, kind of a break from all of that stuff that’s going on,” Boroson said.
Whether you breathe or go for a walk, the key is to do something to distract you from the stress.
“Once you’ve got the hot potato of stress, don’t throw it to somebody else, do something to reduce it,” Boroson said.
It is a lesson that Larry Stack learned. Now he takes acting and self-defense classes and if he is confronted with second-hand stress he says…
“I have a heart condition now. You’re risking my life.”