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We all know what stress feels like, and nobody would say that it’s very fun. With back-to-school season comes bouts of chaos and stress as schedules boost into overdrive and life picks back up in intensity for kids and adults who have any connection to school. Thus, it is very important to understand the concept of trickle up and down stress, as well as how to manage it when life gets a little crazy this fall.

Stress is contagious

Stress is able to be passed on to those around us, eventually trickling down the vine or even up the branches to those who are affected by our commitments and responsibilities. Humans are naturally extremely sensitive and empathetic beings. So when those around us who we hold close exhibit signs of stress, our bodies naturally respond and emulate, thus producing stress in ourselves. 

In other words, stress is contagious. This has been shown in studies concerned with babies catching it from their mothers, as well as adults being exposed to those exhibiting signs of stress. Another interesting study found that the human brain can even respond to airborne chemicals released by other stressed individuals. 

Stress and Back-to-School

Considering the new school year, kids that are in higher stress environments may unintentionally bring some of that stress energy with them into the classroom. Thus, both their teachers and peers could also start developing symptoms of stress. Stress trickles up and down and all around. So how can we take measures to combat this contagiousness of stress? 

It really all comes down to negating the potential for stress to trickle up and down at all. There is no way to control all sources of stress in our lives. Coming to terms with this actually helps relieve stress; let go and stop worrying about what we cannot control.

Modern obsessions with instant gratification, anti-uncertainty, and individuality – while all able to lower stress levels) – actually lead to higher levels of stress when things are out of our control. 

Focusing on what is in our control, what we are capable of doing, saying, etc., is key to combating stress and preventing this contagious trickle up and down stress. Own your own stuff so that no one else has to. That is mindfulness in action!

Five Tips to Overcome Stress

Here are a few tips to prevent stress in your life from seeping into the lives of others around you:

1. You have to slow down to go fast

Multitasking is terribly inefficient. By taking the time to mindfully connect with what you’re doing at the moment, you can keep your attention focused on one thing at a time. By doing things intentionally, you can more easily keep from becoming overwhelmed. 

2. Make a plan (but let adaptation be part of it)

Procrastination has its usefulness at times, but proactively scheduling the things you need to get done each day/week will help you stay accountable. That way, when things change or new plans get in the way, you can more easily adapt and remain stress-free.

3. Brush off the things that are out of your control 

You cannot control everything. You can control how you respond to things when they happen though. So, use your energy to mindfully channel your behaviors to be more positive, accepting, and kind instead of negative, overwhelmed, and stressed. 

4. Spend time helping others, and ask for help when you need it, too

Altruism and empathy offer fantastic reprieves from stress and anxiety. By focusing on helping the world become a better place, it’s easier to get out of our own heads and release those feelings of stress. It’s also important to remember that you can ask for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. 

5. Do what you’re good at, and don’t do what you’re not good at

Failure is one of the greatest teachers in the universe. So learn from your mistakes and invest your focus on doing the things you’re good at. For the rest, instead of stressing yourself repeatedly by failing, invite others in to help you out. Everyone is great at something, and life is better when we work together!

“Trickle up and down” theory may not work for economics, but it’s definitely applicable to stress. Simply Psych supports mental health clinicians as they run their small businesses (super stressful!)  We’re experts at managing the unique intersection that is mental health practice, so if you see yourself in the missive above, we’d love to chat with you. Connect with us at

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