Last week I was asked, “can you catch stress like a cold or the flu?”

My answer was, ‘you bet ya’!

Science tells us that stress is contagious and you need to keep some space between yourself and a stressed person if you possibly can.

Stress is that term that people use for a group of negative emotions including overwhelm, anger, frustration, worry and anxiety. Much like the flu, you can “catch” it from other people. And just like a virus, it can leave you feeling thoroughly drained, flat and even wiped out.

We humans have many ways of tapping into negative emotional energy in our personal and work space and we have a sophisticated ability to pick up on stress cues from others.


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A research study by scientists at the University of Calgary reported that health-care workers treating soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) report that some soldiers’ partners and family members display symptoms of PTSD despite never serving in the military. The research team discovered that stress transmitted from others can change the brain in the same way as a real stress does.

“What we can begin to think about is whether other people’s experiences or stresses may be changing us in a way that we don’t fully understand,” says Jaideep Bains, PhD. “The study also demonstrates that traits we think of as uniquely human are evolutionary conserved biological traits.”

When researchers at the University of British Columbia collected saliva samples from over 400 elementary school students, they discovered that in classrooms where teachers felt “burned out,” students had high levels of cortisol, one of the body’s major “stress hormones.”

“This suggests that stress contagion might be taking place in the classroom among students and their teachers,” said Eva Oberle, the study’s lead author and Assistant Professor with the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at UBC’s school of population and public health. “It is unknown what came first – elevated cortisol or teacher burnout. We consider the connection between student and teacher stress a cyclical problem in the classroom.”

There are so many examples available to demonstrate this finding.

Next week my blog will be about the benefits of a ‘Stress Vaccination’ that will protect you from “catching” stress. Look out for the 12 elements that can support you in living a stress less life.

The Stress Management Institute® conducts training for those individuals who wish to become a qualified Stress Management Practitioner or Stress Management Facilitator and in July 2018 we are launching a new short course, the Emotional Resilience Advocate. We invite you to embark on one of these exciting career courses for supporting people who are struggling to cope with stress. If you are looking for a career change, or you wish to add a Stress Management and Emotional Resilience specialty to your current career, please call us on +61 1 300 663 979 or email

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