23 Signs You're Stressing People Out Without Realizing It
Are you the added stressor in someone else's life?
Everyone experiences some sort of stress in their life, whether it's due to their boss, their colleagues, their kids, or their significant other. But did you ever stop to consider that it's entirely possible that you may also be the source of stress in other people's lives? To help you become more aware of how you make others feel, we've rounded up all the signs that indicate you're stressing out the people in your life without even realizing it.
They eat more when they're around you.
Does someone seem to be indulging more when you're around? It may not be because they're comfortable with you, but rather because they're stress-eating. According to Harvard Medical School, persistent stress releases cortisol, which increases appetite and pushes people toward overeating high-fat, sugary "comfort foods." So if your typically healthy colleague is shoveling in the fries at your work lunch, it's a potential sign that you're causing them stress.
They look at their phone while you're talking.
Have you ever noticed someone looking at their phone while you try to talk to them? Sure, this might be rude, but it says just as much about you as it does about them. Usually this indicates that someone is uncomfortable with or stressed out by the conversation at hand. Instead of taking this behavior as a slight towards you, use it as an opportunity to evaluate whether or not you are making the people around you uncomfortable.
Or they avoid eye contact with you altogether.
While some people use their phone as a way to escape a conversation, Florida-based licensed psychologist Jamie Long notes that others will simply avoid eye contact altogether when someone is stressing them out. If the person with whom you are speaking breaks eye contact, turns away, or finds something to distract themselves with, "it's possible that the topic of conversation got too intense [or] too one-sided," Long explains.
They tap their feet around you.
When you're around someone and you notice them tapping their foot or bouncing their leg in a consistent manner, take note. The American Institute of Stress lists nervous habits like fidgeting and foot-tapping as common signs of stress. So, next time you hear that tap, tap, tap while you're talking, tap, tap, tap this reminder into your head.
Or they sigh a lot.
According to a 2009 study published in the journal Psychophysiology, sighing is often an involuntary function that comes from being overly stressed. So, if someone's audibly sighing as soon as you walk through the door, don't take that lightly.
Or they bite their nails.
Tapping feet and sighs are not the only telltale signs of stress. Nail biting, otherwise known as onychophagia, is also used by some as a way to cope with stress, nervousness, or anxiety. So, if you find that someone seems to pick up this nervous habit whenever they're around you, it could be a sign that you instantly increase their anxiety levels.
They make an excuse to leave when you come around.
If you notice that people have a tendency to leave the room when you enter, it may be because they are actively avoiding a stressful situation—or, in other words, interacting with you. After all, removing stressors from your life can release tension, eliminate the need bad coping mechanisms, and improve physical and emotional symptoms—so who can blame them, really?
You can feel the energy shift when you enter a room.
Are you worried you may be stressing people out? Long says if you want to know for sure, you should walk into a room and pay attention to how the environment changes. "You might be stressing people out if you enter a room of laughing and smiling individuals who suddenly become quiet soon after you enter or start talking," she says."This is because your energy is incongruent with positive vibe your friends were just enjoying."
Or the conversation stops entirely when you arrive.
It may not be just an energy change that makes it clear that you stress people out. If you walk into the room and the conversation stops, chances are that everyone was discussing you or, at least, saying something that they didn't want you to know about. Instead of taking this personally, use it as a chance to grow and become a more productive—and less stress-inducing—part of the group.
They never greet you first.
Someone who finds you to be a stressor in their life is not going to go out of their way to initiate conversation with you. If you see them in the hallway and they pass by without so much as a hello, they're most likely avoiding having to get stuck in a conversation with you because they're worried it will add unnecessary anxiety to their day.
They make plans without you.
And if you're a source of stress in people's lives, then they're probably not going to go out of their way to hang out with you. If you notice that someone is eager to hang out with everyone but you, it might be because they're looking for a chance to recover from you.
They never respond to your texts.
Today, people often use texting to communicate their issues rather than doing it face-to-face. But if you're unloading on someone via this method and getting nothing in return, chances are you're causing them stress, too.
"You may be stressing others out with texts full of emotional stuff like what you are upset about or how you feel about something," says Sherianna Boyle, a psychology professor in Massachusetts and author of Emotional Detox. "This stresses people out because they can't hear the tone and they don't actually get to respond to what you are saying."
You've been told you monopolize conversations.
If you've ever been told that you often take the lead in conversations, that might not be a compliment. While talking about your issues may relieve your stress, you could unintentionally be forcing others to keep their concerns bottled up.
"When a person is going through a hard time, they can sometimes overly process the stressor with loved ones," Long says. "In other words, you don't hold space for others to talk about what's going on in their lives. To counteract this, focus on asking questions, listening more, and interrupting less."
They often complain about having a headache.
If you're causing stress in someone's life, it may lead them to start experiencing headaches on a regular basis. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress is a common trigger of tension headache. And everyday irritants, like dealing with a difficult coworker, can trigger these headaches more frequently than the stress of one major life event.
A normally outgoing person becomes reserved when you're close by.
If someone who is typically outgoing always seems to get more quiet and closed-off when you're around, it may be a sign that your presence makes them uneasy. In fact, California-based career coach Elizabeth Pearson says this type of recoiling or distancing can indicate specific stressors like fear and intimidation.
"[This] reaction could be communicating that the person feels threatened by you," Pearson says. "Without saying anything, the person is showing you that they feel uncomfortable, anxious, uneasy, or that they want to get out of the conversation or your presence."
They get sweaty when you come around.
Sweating is a regular part of life, but if you notice that someone always seems a bit more clammy around you, it may not just be from the heat. According to Piedmont Healthcare, if someone is particularly sweaty under their arms or around their scalp, they may be sweating from their apocrine glands, which is where stress sweat originates from.
They look tired after spending a long time with you.
Fatigue is a telltale symptom of stress. So, if someone appears more tired both physically and mentally after spending time with you, it could very well be because you are adding anxiety to their life.
They never bring their significant other around you.
If you cause undue stress in someone's life, then they are probably not going to ask their significant other to also spend time with you. Not only will they want to prevent their partner from experiencing the same stress they deal with, but they also might not want them to see how they get—irritable, sweaty, reserved, etc.—when they're around you.
They seem distracted in your presence.
Stress can cause even the most prepared and put-together people to become distracted. As neuropsychologist Amy Serin explained to Fast Company, people are unable to access memories and information when they're stressed, and their minds have difficulty concentrating on one thing. So, if you notice that someone seems overly distracted around you, it might be an indication you're seriously stressing them out.
They avoid their favorite activities if you're involved.
In severely stressful scenarios, people will even avoid activities they usually enjoy if they know there is going to be someone there who makes them feel anxious. If you decide to attend happy hour and your most sociable coworker immediately cancels, it's safe to assume that the problem isn't a scheduling conflict, it's the company—namely, you.
They seem to drink more when you're around.
Stress can often cause people to turn to vices like alcohol as a means of coping. In fact, a 2018 survey from the U.K. Mental Health Foundation found that 74 percent of respondents felt overwhelming stress in the past year, and 29 percent of those individuals reported taking up drinking or increasing their drinking as a way to cope. So, if one of your friends, colleagues, or loved ones starts having more cocktails than usual when you're around, consider talking to them about what's stressing them out. (And be warned: It could be you.)
They lash out at you.
If you notice someone becoming increasingly irritable, that's a clear emotional symptom of stress. What's more, if you happen to be the person who's bearing the brunt of their anger, it's entirely possible that you're the one causing their stress. Try talking them down and then iron out the situation before it's too late.
They're always sick.
One of the most surprising symptoms of stress is frequent sickness. A study published in the journal Age in 2013 showed that chronic stress can result in a weakened immune system. Similarly, another 2010 study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine confirmed that psychological stress was associated with an increased chance of developing an upper respiratory infection. So, if someone you interact with often falls ill, it may be a sign they're overly stressed—and that you're the problem. And for more stress signs, check out these 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Body.
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