Ian Cleary

Stress is contagious

My last post looked at environmental triggers. An article I read this week about stress being ‘contagious’ highlights this concept nicely.

If someone is stressed, those around them can become stressed by watching them. The brain is constantly checking ‘Am I OK?’.

If your peers are giving off the signs of not being OK, then for protection, your brain can move you into the ‘fight and flight mode’ as well, prompting the production of the stress hormones.

Similarly studies show if a mother experiences a stressful event then goes to her baby, the baby will pick up that something is ‘wrong’ and also produce a stress hormones.

This concept of transferred emotions and physiological states like stress, has huge implications. If we are looking to change ourselves, our success can be influenced biologically and neurologically by those around us. Someone can be working to address their anxiety, but our brain over rides that success because it falsely detects a ‘danger’ via someone else’s habitual stressed state. It could be their facial expression, tone of voice, posture, breathing rate, eye movements, touch or even smell.

So this understanding is important.  As children we are primed to detect danger and our nervous system will ‘dance in step’ with those around us. (Some research is suggesting that ‘dance’ with stress responses starts in the womb!).  But as adults we can learn to detect when our response is inappropriate and change it.

This can be part of someone’s post Lightning Process training work. If we are learning to retrain our stress responses then those around us can be a factor. We need to learn how to tell our brain that ‘everything is OK’ even if those around you are stressed. We can not change others, but we can change how we respond to them.

There is so many interesting aspects in this topic such as the role of empathy (empathy increases the flow of physiological and emotional states between people) and mirror neurology (the rewiring of our brains by observing those around us). The key message hopefully is that through the understanding or how our brain and bodies interconnect, we can learn to overcome stuckness in our lives.

These subtle pieces of the puzzle if addressed can make success finally achievable or if missed can make success seem impossible.



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