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How Your Friend's Stress Can Help You Defeat Your Own

A stressful scenario may not seem as daunting if you go through it with someone who's equally as stressed about it as you are, new research suggests.

For the Social Psychological and Personality Science study, researchers from the University of Southern California, University of Leuven and University of California, Santa Barbara, had pairs of study participants participate in a stressful task together (giving a speech). The emotional similarity of each partner in the pair was measured, as well as the "threat level" each partner perceived the task to have.

Researchers found that the more similar the emotional states of the partners, the greater the reduction in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in response to doing the stressful task. In addition, people who feared public speaking said they felt less stressed when they were emotionally similar to their partner.

The findings apply to real-world situations, such as readying a big presentation for work, researchers said.

"For instance, when you're putting together an important presentation or working on a high-stakes project, these are situations that can be threatening and you may experience heightened stress," study researcher Sarah Townsend, an assistant professor of management and organization at the university, said in a statement. "But talking with a colleague who shares your emotional state can help decrease this stress."

However, there is a wrong way to hash out your stressors and feelings -- past research has suggested that co-rumination (the act of excessively discussing your problems, mostly in a negative way) in the context of a friendship can actually increase stress.