It’s bad enough having to cope with the hazards of secondhand smoke; but now it’s found that secondhand stress can be hazardous to our productivity and health as well.
The suggestion that stress is contagious is based on research that suggests a class of brain cells called mirror neurons that appear to reflect the actions & feelings of others.
So if you cringe at the sight of someone else getting hurt, empathize with your friend who is grieving and feel uncomfortable when a coworker is upset and anxious, blame it on these specialized brain cells. No wonder our mothers warned us to stay away from obnoxious people, surround ourselves with positive friends, and be polite to people. (After all, we don’t want to spread our bad feelings to others.)
And when mother said, “This hurts me as much as it hurts you,” she wasn’t fibbing. Studies show that the pain we feel when others get hurt activates the same regions of the brain that are activated when we actually get hurt ourselves.
Not only does this make sense of the fact that we sometimes get “bad vibes” from people we meet, it also emphasizes the importance of being able to manage stress effectively – even secondhand stress. Stress can affect our productivity as well as our mood and state of health
We can have a positive influence on others – whether family, friends or business associates – by being kind, caring, compassionate and cheerful. Who knows? We could be part of a domino effect that could impact the well-being of the world.