Sunday, October 18, 2020

Secondhand Stress

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
We've all heard of secondhand smoke, which is where someone who isn't a smoker can suffer the ill effects of cigarettes by being around one or more people who do smoke. I put it to you that Secondhand Stress also exists, whereby you suffer the stress experienced by others.

Case in point: me. I am largely a hermit by choice, preferring to stay at home so I don't have to interact with irritating people. As such, the "lockdown" had little effect on me personally. I didn't even mind wearing a mask, as that both covered my "resting bitch face" and made people more inclined to avoid me. However, I have experienced growing levels of stress for quite some time, because even though the lockdown doesn't affect me, it affects the family members with whom I live. They are becoming increasingly short-tempered and irritable, and because I live with them that means the tension levels in the house increase, and therefore my stress levels go up.

In my case, not only am I more irritable than usual, having both a shorter temper and my anger burning hotter when I do snap, but all this stress is also taking its toll on me physically. I feel exhausted all the time, with no energy or desire to do anything except sleep, and yet when I do sleep for 8 hours or more, I never feel fully rested. I am also less creative and my ability to communicate complex concepts is diminished, both of which cause me frustration and only add to my stress levels. 

This feeling is somewhat similar to depression, but there are key differences. 
  • While I cannot speak for others, when my depression kicks in it happens very quickly, whereas in this case it has been slowly building for 6 months. 
  • My depression has never lasted this long. Again, other people are different, but mine is cyclical and would always break within a month. 
  • My depression has always been based on feeling of sadness, helplessness, and worthlessness, whereas what I am feeling now is based on frustration and impatience which threatens to explode into outrage at the slightest mishap or inconvenience. 
I don't have any good advice for how to fix this other than to emphasize the importance of everyone having a quiet place of their own where they can retreat to get away from irritation. Humans are territorial animals, and having a "den" where we can control the environment and not be bothered is critical. 

Learn from what is going on now because these lessons will be important later. If we ever have a grid-down disaster, or experience an emergency which requires long-term isolation, I expect to see these symptoms again. Even if you don't experience "cabin fever", unless you live alone the odds are good that someone in your family or tribe will, and the stress that they feel will soon be spread across your entire environment. 


  1. This is one of the reasons why I choose to live in a low population county, 10mi from the nearest and only full service grocery store. Much less stress out here in the boonies.

  2. Hi BCP,
    This defines how I feel as well. I need a den and don't have one. Everyone else in this house has a special place to hid out and pretend they aren't locked up with the family. Time to make one before I snap at my family.
    Let's see... Do I get the kitchen? Nope! I get trapped there all the time.
    Dining? Nope, used for homeschool.
    Family room? Tempting. It has the TV and loads of books. Hmmm it needs one more wall- I think I could make it using the china hutch.

    Thank you!


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