If you’ve ever felt like you’ve caught a bad mood from someone, it probably wasn’t your imagination.
You know what I’m talking about…you’re having a great day, and then you run into someone who is totally stressed out, angry, or worried? And then before you know it, you’re knocked out of your good mood and are suddenly feeling stressed and agitated, too?
Scientists recently found brain changes associated with stress are actually contagious and can ‘infect’ others. After the stressor is removed, females are better able to reverse those brain changes, while males have a tougher time with it.
“Recent studies indicate that stress and emotions can be ‘contagious’. Whether this has lasting consequences for the brain is not known.” – Dr. Jaideep Bains, PhD
This particular study (which was published in the medical journal Nature Neuroscience) was done on mice so obviously more investigation needs to be done on people, but it shows how stress has such a profound impact on us (even if it’s not our own stress) right down to the brain and chemical level.
While some stress is healthy, keeping us motivated and moving forward in our lives, too much stress or stress at the wrong times can take a toll.
Over time it can affect your health, sleep, and even your waistline.
So, what can you do about it?
Learning how to mitigate stress and put your body in the best possible position to handle anything thrown its way is your best line of defense.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Avoid stressful discussions at night before bed – save them for earlier in the day whenever possible. Being stressed makes it hard to sleep, which in turn can make you even more stressed. Not good for you or your relationship! (I talk about this in my book, It’s Not You, It’s Us: A Guide for Living Together Without Growing Apart.)
- Work out. Studies show that putting your body through physical stress helps relieve mental stress.
- Try deep breathing. Exhale deeply, and then slowly breathe in, feeling your belly and lungs expand, and slowly exhale. Repeat several times. You’ll feel your body start to relax.
- Eat healthy fats like salmon, chia, and flaxseed. In one study, medical students who were given omega 3 supplements reported stress reduction of 20 percent (check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplements, especially if you take prescription medications).
- Try aromatherapy – lavender, orange, ylang ylang, and frankincense may help you relax.
- Take a bath or shower. It can change your state.
- Get some fresh air. It’s amazing what going for a walk can do to change your perspective.
- Spend time in nature.
- Watch a funny movie or TV show, listen to music, or listen to a comedy channel on streaming radio.
- If you’re feeling stressed, take a timeout and make sure you’re not stressing out everyone around you.
And try not to stress about stressing out. The most important thing you can do is take a step back and take care of YOU.
As you know, this will help you take better care of everyone and everything around you.
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What’s your favorite way to personally manage stress? I’d love to read about it in the comments section below.