Is Stress at the Office Contagious?

Is stress at the office contagious?

The Wall Street Journal reported that “working with people who are stressed has both physiological and emotional effects. Perspiration produced under emotional strain releases alarm pheromones, or airborne chemical signals. When inhaled by others, these substances activate the amygdala, the region of the brain linked to emotional arousal, according to a 2009 study in PLOS One.”

The piece adds: “People who act stressed create social pressure, too. A boss who rushes constantly sparks anxiety among others who assume they should be racing around, too. Also, it is stressful to try to communicate with a co-worker who seems chronically overburdened, making co-workers reluctant to ask for help or even a moment to talk.”

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Anese Cavanaugh is the creator of the IEP Method (Intentional Energetic Presence). She offers in Inc. Magazine “Seven ways to avoid catching the stress bug” — including methods that work at the office, including:

  • “Breathe and get present to this moment, now.”
  • “Remember, you are not them. The person who’s bringing the room or conversation down with their energy and stories of stress? That’s them. Not you.”
  • “Watch out for story time. It’s so easy to get hooked into story: theirs, yours, your mom’s. It’s exhausting–and stressful. Instead, take a pause, and check in. Is it true? Whose story is it? What are you buying into? What ‘charge’ are you getting out of the stress? Misery loves company, and in stress, hooking someone with a story can be cathartic. Swim away.”
  • “Change your state. Focus on what you’re grateful for.”
  • “Take care of yourself proactively.”
  • “Get into your body. You feel that stress coming on…Get up, move, get into your body, dance if you must, smile, and shift.”