If you feel like most of your stress is caused by others, interacting with people can feel frustrating, exhausting, and difficult. After several negative interactions, you might dread interactions or even start to hate being around people.
It isn’t possible to completely get rid of stress, especially if the source is someone you work with, live with, or have to interact with on a regular basis. However, there are ways you can reduce stress, cope with it better, and protect yourself from lowering your quality of life.
In this article, you will learn healthy ways to deal with difficult people, reduce stress, and improve your ability to cope with people who stress you out.
There may be certain people, personalities, and social interactions that cause more stress than others. Finding out who is causing you the most stress can help you limit your interactions and set boundaries that reduce their impact on you.
For example, you might notice that your stress shows up more in these situations:
- With your boss, coworkers, or certain people at work
- With dates and possible romantic partners
- In big groups of people or large social events
- When you start a conversation with a stranger
- When someone takes their stress out on you
- During conflict or difficult conversations
- With people who are loud or talk too much
- With people who are very opinionated or forceful
- With people who are negative or complain a lot
- Around people who are very outgoing or energetic
Unlike extroverted people, introverts get burned out in social interactions. If you are an introvert, making alone time a priority can reduce your overall levels of stress, making it easier to deal with the stress that comes from social interactions.
You may be an introvert if you:
- Prefer to have a small circle of close friends
- Prefer to listen and observe rather than talk
- Are naturally shy or reserved
- Feel drained after social activities
- Like to take your time when opening up to others
- Enjoy spending time alone or doing quiet activities
According to recent research, 67% of adults reported increased stress during 2020, and rates of anxiety and depression have tripled.[2, 3] Stress and mental health issues often go hand-in-hand. If your mental health is poor, you will have a higher sensitivity to stress.
You might be struggling with one of these issues if you experience some of these common symptoms:
- Feel sad, down, or in a bad mood most days
- Feel worried or anxious most of the time
- Feel more irritable or snap more easily
- Cannot concentrate or get things done
- Feel exhausted, drained, and tired for no reason
- Are using more drugs and alcohol than normal
The good news is that almost all mental health conditions are treatable. Therapy, medication, or even learning new coping skills like meditation are all great ways to reduce stress and improve your overall mental health.
Because workplace stress is a common issue for Americans, finding a balance between work (including job, classes, and household duties) and life is essential to managing stress.
- Have a daily schedule and to-do list to keep you on track
- Take breaks throughout the day to eat, rest, and relax
- Make time for friends and fun activities each week
- Turn off work notifications when you’re away from work
- Start a hobby, DIY project, or something else enjoyable
- Get support from your supervisor or coworkers
Setting boundaries means making sure that you always keep your feelings, wants, and needs as a top priority. If you have a hard time setting boundaries, it may be one of the reasons why you feel so stressed out by certain people.[4, 5] Setting boundaries can help you avoid letting stress, anger, and resentment build in your relationships.
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Some ways to set boundaries with people include:
- Avoiding giving an automatic “yes” when someone asks for help
- Ask to get back to them after you check your schedule and think it through
- Consider what you have on your plate before you commit
- Admit when you’ve taken on too much and ask for help
- Address relationship issues early when they are still small
Outlets are activities, people, and skills that help you release and let go of stress. Because it won’t be possible to completely get rid of all of your stress, it is important to have healthy outlets. Making these a regular part of your routine will help keep you balanced and avoid letting stress build up.
- Talking to a supportive family member, partner, or friend
- Limit screen time and spend more time offline
- Get outside and be more active
- Try meditation or mindfulness
- Rely on friends and family for support
If you dislike someone, don’t let them rent space in your head. You let them rent space in your head whenever you think about them or replay or rehearse negative interactions with them. According to research, giving a lot of attention to these thoughts can increase stress and anxiety, making them worse.
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Here are some skills to interrupt negative thoughts that increase stress:
- Imagine a pause button in your mind to stop an unwanted thought
- Turn on music, a podcast, or a show you enjoy to switch your attention elsewhere
- Single-task by putting your full energy and attention into a task
- Use mindfulness to become more present by focusing on one of your 5 senses
Positive feelings can be contagious, so creating more positive vibes can sometimes interrupt negative patterns of interaction. If you feel locked into a negative pattern with someone, try to hit the reset button to create more positive feelings.
These simple tips can create more friendly (and less stressful) interactions with people:
- Be kind by giving them a compliment or doing them a favor
- Smile and show interest when they are talking
- Give them a shoutout or mention in a work or social meeting
- Back up one of their ideas or agree with one of their opinions
- Stop to make small talk or ask how they are doing
If you’ve already made up your mind that you don’t like someone, it can set up every interaction with them to become a source of negative stress. Consider giving them another chance by going into each conversation with a clean slate, an open mind, and a positive attitude. This gives them a chance to interact with you in a different, more positive way.
You might find it stressful to interact with specific people, especially if they have a different personality or style of communication than you do. If all of your interactions feel stressful, it may be because you are anxious, introverted, or have a lot of other stress in your life.
You can work on being less sensitive by trying not to take things too personally. For example, when someone is rude or short with you, don’t assume that they don’t like you. It could be that they are just having a bad day or didn’t get enough sleep last night.
When you care about someone, you are bound to be affected by their stress, but you can limit the impact by remembering to set boundaries. Only offer to help when you can, and remember to take time for breaks and self-care.
When possible, try to limit your interactions with people who stress you out. For example, limit interactions with a stressful coworker by exchanging texts or emails instead of talking on the phone or by having set times to meet to discuss a project.
Worrying is just a form of rumination. You can interrupt worry by refocusing your attention, using mindfulness techniques, or by imagining a “pause” button in your mind. Focusing your attention outward to your surroundings or a task can also help.
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