If You Don’t Have It, You’re Not Contagious: A Look at Stress Contagion

Ever walk into a room where people were arguing and suddenly find that you are getting tense? Did you know that the baby of a stressed mother could be in danger of rising blood pressure? A new study from the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Technische Universität Dresden finds that stress can be highly contagious. “The fact that we could actually measure this empathic stress in the form of a significant hormone release was astonishing,” said Veronika Engert, an author of the study.

A few days ago in a Time article commenting on the findings, the writer states, “See someone yawn on the subway, and you know there’s a pretty high probability that you’re going to be yawning. But new research says that there’s another contagion out there that you can catch just through simple observation: Stress.”

Research and articles on this topic begin to illustrate the connectivity and reciprocal relationship of each of us with others in our environment. To many of us, this is not news, even if the scientific community is first establishing it as a measureable phenomenon.

In the September 2012 issue of Psychology Today, Dr. Sherry Pagoto wrote about the contagious effect of stress and suggested a few ways to reduce one’s chances of being afflicted. Dr. Pagota mentions meditation as a viable way to reduce the likelihood of stress that might result in oneself from interaction with others or that one might induce in others.

Of course, stress is not the end-product of this contagion—psychosomatic disease, disease either caused or complicated by stress, plagues our population. One might anticipate stress and stress-related disease to crop up in populations such as veterans, educators, prison inmates, first responders, and hospital staffers, but it also plagues everyone from high school students to CEOs on Wall Street.

Hypertension, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, insomnia, allergies, asthma, and even cancer are examples of what are considered to be psychosomatic ramifications.

Through more than forty decades of teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique in New York City where stressed people live, travel, work, dine and are entertained in close proximity regularly, I have found the Transcendental Meditation technique to be highly successful in reducing stress and stress related behavior and disease.

More than 360 peer reviewed published studies have shown the benefits of the TM program to mental and physical health including very powerful and sometimes unique benefits in the area of stress reduction and reduction of heart disease.

The most effective way to be sure that you are not the culprit infecting your family and friends—eliminate stress in yourself! Stress management is a relic of the past—elimination of stress is far more desirable.

About the Author

Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals, a division of TM for Women in the USA

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