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Keeping safe and sane
Which brings us to the third option: learning how to avoid falling victim.
“Stress resilience is something we can work on,” Kadue said. “It’s about responding to the stress rather than reacting to it.”
Both Kadue and Safyre recommend finding something supportive — it can be a photograph, a memory or an object like a bracelet — that generates pleasant thoughts that allow you to ground yourself during a stress-inducing situation.
“Stay in touch with it so you’re not lost in their energy,” Safyre said. “If you have a confrontation, tell yourself, ‘I’m not going to allow this to happen.’ ”
In his book, Sood outlines a number of coping mechanisms.
“One of them is that you can imagine yourself wearing either a Teflon or a Velcro vest,” he said. “If it’s Velcro, everything that’s thrown at you will stick. But if it’s Teflon, everything slides off. So if you have to have a confrontation [with a stress-inducer], make sure you have your Teflon vest on. You can’t give that person the key to your heart.”
The source of the stress is not always a person, Numan said. “Sometimes just walking into a place that is set up similar to one where you had a stressful experience will do it,” she said. Or it could be a sound or smell triggering the reaction, Kadue said.
“We can be totally oblivious as to what’s causing the stress,” Safyre said. “It’s all about investigating. Pay attention to how you’re responding. And you have to be very observant” about what’s happening at the time.
Secondhand stress is an occupational hazard for some professions, including counseling, medicine and even bartending. It’s such a concern at the CenterPoint Massage & Shiatsu School in St. Louis Park that teaching how to avoid it “is part of our whole curriculum,” said owner/instructor Ed Pelava.
“A lot of people come in for a massage with stress issues,” he said. “Transference is a very big issue. We tell our students over and over, ‘Don’t let them dump that on you.’ It’s important to respond [to the person getting the massage]; you do want to show the client that you care about them. But you also have to be vigilant on that. Don’t absorb it.”
That’s easier said than done, he admitted. “We also teach the students clearing exercises and relaxing techniques that they can use between clients to remain grounded,” he said.
If you won’t address stress issues for yourself, at least do it for everyone else, Sood said. Stress we don’t deal with gets passed on to the people around us.
“If you take your stress home, your family is going to feel it,” he said. “Don’t let that person throw you into a tailspin.”
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392