Contagious stress – don’t catch it

According to researcher of happiness, Michelle Gielan, stress is contagious. She explains how second-hand stress or, empathetic stress is also responsible for those jumpy, unnerving feelings that stop you sleeping after watching a horror film.

contagious stress

Seeing another person in a stressful situation can have a direct impact on our own hormones and nervous system.

While empathy is a good trait humans have, this is one side effect that may not be enjoyed, but how can you make yourself “immune”?

Say hello

A simple trick to start. Say hello and smile to co-workers you may not normally speak to. Connecting with people releases a positive message to the brain and a strong social network is known to be the best predictor of long-term happiness.

Press pause

If you are feeling anxious, take a moment to breath deeply. It is easy to spread stress-filled, negative feelings through email, so if you are in a down mood, take a moment to read what you have written before sending.

Change focus

If you are regularly around stressful situations, find a way to block it out. If your co-worker is more prone to stress or anxiety, bring some nature to your desk for a positive hit of feng-shui or put up photos of things that make you smile to re-focus your attention.

Schedule “alone time”

Our world is very connected so it is easy to pick up stress. A way to avoid this is to take a moment to turn off all electronics. Walk to a café for a coffee, walk in the park or get a massage. Whatever it is that makes you feel good – schedule it in. These moments to yourself are just as important as every thing else on your to-do list.


When you are feeling stressed, either at work or at home, take two minutes to sit back and focus on your breathing. Notice your breath going in and out of your lungs, count slowly as you inhale and exhale.

This single-tasking action in the middle of a busy, multi-tasking world can help train your brain to focus on the quiet rather than being scatter-brained.

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Written by Ellen Lees
Head of Content.
Written by Ellen Lees
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