How you handle stress might be affecting how empathetic you are.

It's OK; we know how you feel.

"I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it."

That's one of my favorite quotes from the late, great Maya Angelou in a 2013 New York Times interview. For all the differences between us, the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes is one of humanity's most fascinating, wonderful traits.

And it's a good thing, too. Empathy helps shape our sense of morality and plays a key role in how we interact with others.


"Teammate-person, I see that you've taken a blow to the head. I understand how you feel, and I am here for you!" — My guess at this conversation. Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images.

But a recent study suggests that our natural tendencies toward empathy can be hampered by something we all deal with: stress.

We all get stressed out. It's a very human thing to do. Trying to make deadline, stuck on hold with customer service, or even, gulp, headed to the DMV? These are all really stressful situations.

This is basically me when I'm stressed. GIF via "Clue."

And it turns out that when our bodies are in a state of stress, we're less likely — quite literally — to imagine ourselves in someone else's position.

For example, one test positioned the subject on one side of the table with a stranger on the other. From the subject's perspective, a book was placed on the right side of the table.

Here I am, trying to create a diagram. Bear with me.

First, the subject was asked what side of the table the book was on. The answer, obviously, was on the right.

Then, they were asked which side the book was on from the stranger's perspective. Those who were stressed were more likely to answer incorrectly or pause before responding.

The study just confirms what most of us already know.

Know that feeling where you're stressed out and suddenly everyone in the world is just being obnoxious? That moment where you stop being able to (or choose not to) understand where other people are coming from? I certainly do. That's our empathy taking a nosedive.

This is the face of one very stressed-out stock photo model. Image via Thinkstock.

Luckily, there are a few things we can do to help.

Here are three quick tips to beat stress (and restore your empathy)!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some excellent tips for helping you keep cool under pressure, and most of them come down to some basic self-care techniques.

1. Avoid drugs and alcohol.

This one might seem obvious. But as someone who has struggled with alcohol in the past, I totally get the appeal. The problem is that these are only temporary fixes and in the end, might leave you feeling even more stressed than before. If you're able to, try to cut back and see if that makes things any better.

2. Take care of your body.

Your physical health is so important. Are you eating well? Do you exercise? How's your sleep schedule? Do you have a set routine for the day, or do you just wing it? Pulling an all-nighter or skipping breakfast won't make life any easier. Try to set a routine, starting with the basics — like making a plan for what time you want to go to bed and wake up. Consider planning out your meals at the start of a week. Keep at it, and you might form a habit. You know, one of those good ones.

3. Don't isolate yourself.

Consider joining a book club, or maybe an intramural basketball league. These are long-term stress-reducers. And best of all, they help you get out of your own head for a bit.

Everyone has their own stress-busting solution, so if something works for you (and, you know, doesn't hurt anyone), run with it.

We've written about other approaches to keeping the stress monster at bay. We've covered a 191-year-old symphony that might just keep your blood pressure low, the benefits of owning cats, and the "scientific power of meditation."

The best part about all of this is there's sure to be something that works for you. Maybe you just haven't found it yet. Don't give up! You'll be a better person for it.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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