IS SECOND-HAND ANXIETY A THING? A Personal Story
I have always been intrigued by the term psychology. The curiosity about understanding the human mind has often led me to read various articles & books. A month back though, I tried to study & understand a part of the subject through a different medium i.e., by enrolling myself in an online course. The course was on 'Psychology & Mental Health: Beyond Nature & Nurture' by MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses). The name was highly fascinating and I had already started thinking about various aspects of it. Essentially to start with, why do people behave the way they do or 'what makes us tick', was what they taught us in our first class.
While I was engrossed in the tutorial, my phone beeped. It was a message from a friend who was gearing up for a grand launch of her art exhibition happening the next day. The message said that she was extremely nervous as to how people would receive her creativity, vis-a-vis her art. Also, given the fact that the person who was going to inaugurate the exhibition had been her icon for many years now, was making her more nervous.
The message, her thoughts & her feelings flurried in my mind which led to me being equally nervous as her. I started overthinking about the reception of her work to no end.
After a while, I called her and calmed her down by asking her to vent all her feelings out. Now that the thoughts were out, she herself understood that she has done her work and that she cannot control the reciprocation of the work. Hence, the best option was to just enjoy the process. I went back to my tutorial, but something did not feel right. I understood the fact that I got a little over the edge because I cared about my friend. However, I could not quite put a finger on the thought of feeling equally nervous as her since none of my stakes were riding as high as hers.
The thought of “not knowing the reason” or “the impending knowledge” about my own feeling irked me and I decided to do some research on it. Soon after, I found few impressive articles & book recommendations on the term 'Second Hand Anxiety' commonly referred to as 'Second Hand Stress' which is not a disorder per se, but a neurological phenomenon that refers to the manner our emotions spread and have an impact on others. Research says that stress is contagious and as humans, we tend to worry about every tiny thing; so it is quite obvious that we, at times, can pick that stress up from other people; mostly, those who are close to us.
It does not matter if you are having a great and eventful day or you are already sad, second-hand anxiety can occur at any time. There are measures that we can take to avoid getting wrapped by second-hand anxiety. There are various ways to overcome it of which the first and foremost way is to understand what the term means because awareness is the need of the hour. Awareness about our mind in terms of how it acts or reacts to a certain emotion is paramount. Maintaining a healthy emotional distance from the person who is stressing is advised to prevent second-hand anxiety. It does not, at all, mean that you are being ignorant. It only means that you don't want to get blinded by their perspective. Try to empathize with the positive feelings & emotions more than the negative ones. Engaging with an optimistic perspective helps you keep a healthy mind and also enables you to be a happier person!
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Written by - Arya Diwakar