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Your stress is my stress - When stress is contagious

Stress is one of the main factors in the development of mental and physical diseases. Mental illnesses, such as Burnoutdepression or anxiety disorders, are not seldom consequences of a Permanent stress load. Also, persistent stress damages the body by weakening the immune system and regenerative processes in the body.

We are constantly confronted with many things in our daily lives that cause us stress. Work, family, road traffic, financial worriesto have to do everything, Worry thoughtsThe demands for performance and much more can lead to us feeling under pressure and stress, both internally and externally. Our fast-moving times also contribute to this. Everything should always go more, faster and better and we try to keep upby putting ourselves under constant pressure to react.

Every day many stimuli flood in on us, which challenge and sometimes overtax us. But not only these obvious stimuli influence us and our stress level. Our environment and the people we are with also have an influence on our stress levels

Stress can also be contagious

We all know the phenomenon that when we come into a room where there is a bad atmosphere, it quickly spills over onto us. "Thick air prevails here" we say, we feel how we feel uncomfortable, become restless, our breathing becomes shallower. We let ourselves be infected by the stressful atmosphere.

However, this subjective feeling can also be scientifically proven. A study by the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and the TU Dresden was able to Transfer of stress to other people by the release of the stress hormone cortisol. In the study, the test persons had to undergo various stress tests. For example, difficult mathematical tasks or job interviews. 95 percent of the test persons who had undergone this direct stress showed a significant increase in cortisol levels and only five percent were not affected by stress.

But even more interesting are the results of the 2nd group of participants, who themselves were not exposed to any stress, but only the other participants in Stress situations observed had. Here, 26 percent had a significant Release of the stress hormone cortisol. This effect was particularly strong when the observer and the stressed person were close to each other (40 percent).

But even with complete strangers the stress still jumped to ten percent of observers. There were also hardly any differences between the results of men and women. Both were equally influenced by observed stress. Even if the stress test was only viewed on the screen, 24 percent of the observers had elevated cortisol levels afterwards. "This means that even TV shows that confront me with the suffering of others can transfer the stress to me," says study director Engert.


Television influences our stress levels

Other studies also show that our stress level can be influenced simply by watching television. Watching violent and horror movies is considered very critical, because we are excited and anxious ourselves and "suffer" with the victims. It has also been shown that reading and watching a lot of news leads to a much more negative world view.

News showers judge the world as more dangerous, violent and unjust than people who rarely or never watch the news. As a result, people with a negative worldview are more closed, more prone to depressed, anxious thoughts and brooding.

Likewise, our environment, in which we live and spend a lot of time, also influences our perception of stress. Studies in the USA show that people who live in a violent environment perceive the world as more violent and dangerous than people who live in a peaceful environment. They tend to feel more anxious and depressed.

It has also been shown that stress levels are significantly higher in people who spend most of their time in artificial environments than in people who spend more time in natural environments. For example, the rural population tended to be healthier than city dwellers.

Why are we influenced by the stress of others?


One can explain the phenomenon that we get carried away by the stress of others among other things, by improving our ability to Empathy own. We can put ourselves in another person's shoes, feel with them and thus also pity them. This empathy is especially great with people to whom we feel close and whom we know well. But it is also present in relation to strangers.

Empathy is often developed to varying degrees in people, but in principle almost everyone is capable of empathy. Empathy makes us understand other people and helps us to build up a connection to others. Through our empathic ability we also perceive emotional states such as anger or stress in others. This happens partly consciously, but also unconsciously or unintentionally.

A further explanation for stress transmission can be that we are in contact with our environment in Response go. In physics, resonance (Latin: "resonare = to reverberate") means the resonance of an oscillating system when it is subject to an external influence. Physics shows that we consist of energy or oscillations and that every living being "oscillates" at a certain frequency, depending on its current state.


If we make contact with others, we also make contact with the vibrations or frequencies of other living beings and go into resonance with them. So moods or emotional states of other people or atmospheres of certain environments and influence us. Without us being aware of it.

This means that even if we go into a room with a lot of stressed or bad-tempered people in a relaxed and good mood, we will be influenced by it. After some time our mood sinks, we feel uncomfortable, more restless, stressed.

The environment

Especially sensitive persons usually perceive these influences more clearly or even faster. Directed attention also has an important influence. If we consciously direct our attention to people who are highly stressed or very negative, we also get more contact or resonance with these people through the actively directed attention. The importance of these people to us also plays a major role and how we rate them. In this way, their emotional state or stress level also influences us more than other people to whom we pay less attention.

These interrelationships have many implications for our everyday life. For example, we are in Open-plan offices exposed not only to their own stress and increased noise levels, but also to the Stress of colleagues. The same applies to rush hour traffic in cars, buses or trains, supermarkets, places where many people are in a hurry or under stress. But even at home can be a major source of stress in this way.

If we surround ourselves in our family or circle of friends mainly with stressed or negatively attuned people, this also has a negative influence on our stress level and mood. We should also not ignore the influence of the environment in which we live or spend most of our time. So increase environments with disorder, chaos, Noise and rapid stimuli our stress levels.

How can I protect myself from the stress of my environment?

It is clear that we cannot avoid all stress in everyday life and cannot avoid every stressful influence from our environment or other people. But we can protect better against many stress influencesby first making ourselves aware of them and then finding ways to deal with them differently. It can also help for unavoidable stressful environmental influences strike a balance.

Build up stress protection rooms

If we work in a stressful environment (e.g. an open-plan office), we can protect ourselves from the stress of others by doing some kind of "Resting bladder" or "Protective ball" around us, where all stress bounces off. It is important to repeat this imagination exercise regularly, initially daily, and thus to implement it. At some workplaces it is also possible to work with headphonesto block out the ambient noise.

In this way we can also counteract the stress vibrations by creating pleasant, relaxing listen to musicn and stressors from outside can be better hidden. Also Breathing exercises in between jobs can help us relieve stress. It is often enough to take 6-8 deep breaths deep into the stomach several times a day. It is also helpful to go outside the door or to the toilet once or twice a day and shake yourself up. So we can Reduce stress and adrenaline...shake him off, so to speak. It also helps us if we use the lunch break to leave the stressful environment and preferably go out into nature or the At least simulate nature.

Nature as a counter pool

If we have to spend a lot of time in stressful environments and cannot avoid them, it is important to Counter pool for rest and relaxation make it. There is nothing better suited for this than nature. Nature provides our body and mind with gentle stimuli, allowing us to let go of stress and switch off. In addition, nature enlivens us with new strength and energy. We can use our lunch breaks, work trips or our free time to go out into nature.

It is important to consciously draw attention to nature.


It is very pleasant when we go for a walk alone, not to be distracted by conversations, and thus give our mind the opportunity to consciously perceive and absorb the peace and strength within us. Especially when planning weekends and holidays we can take good care of ourselves and prefer natural areas to stressful ones. Stress-reducing and energizing are natural environments such as large forest areas, mountains, sea or virgin forests, where as little as possible has been changed by humans.

"You are not only what you eat, but also what you consume.

Not only about the Food we absorb substances within us that nourish or harm us, but also through our environment. We can protect ourselves here by paying attention to the images, sounds and moods we incorporate into our private environment. What we find in Television look at which Music we also hear how we can Designing a flat has an influence on our mood and stress perception.

Especially in our private life we have the possibility to influence these factors so that they do us good instead of harming us. This also includes that we take a more critical look at our circle of friends. Often there are people who stress us more than they do us good. These can be people who are permanently stressed or have a very negative attitude and see only the bad in everything. But they can also be people who only take, never give, only talk instead of listening, or people who always try to make us feel guilty. Even if it may be difficult sometimes, it can take a lot of stress away from us if we distance ourselves more from or separate ourselves from such people.

I direct my attention!

It is not always possible to avoid people who are not good for us, such as in professional life. But we can consciously decide for ourselves how much attention we pay to these stressors and to what extent we let them influence us. What we focus our attention on...we'll get into resonance with that. It is our decision what we consciously focus our attention on and what we withdraw it from.

The same applies to our ratings and attitudes. These are subject to many influences from childhood, from learning experiences, from the media, from our environment. It helps us to make ourselves aware of these evaluations and attitudes and to check whether they are really ours or whether they are still up to date. We have the power of decision.

Even though we are daily exposed to a lot of stress from our fellow human beings and our environment, we still have many possibilities to protect ourselves from these stress influences and to counteract them.

This article is a guest contribution from Dipl. Psych. Stephanie Neuwald.

stephanie-new forest

I am a psychologist and stress management coach in Munich and have been working for many years with people with stress issues, burnout, depression, anxiety disorders and life crises in practice, clinic and seminars. I support people to find back into their strength and to live their strengths. To live consciously and as free as possible from constraints are important factors for me to be healthy and happy.

Through my travels and my stress management seminars in Costa Rica, I experience again and again the liberating and healing influence of nature and living positive environment. Therefore it is very important to me to bring the aspect of nature into therapy and everyday life. I also try to pass on my experiences from my life, therapy and research in seminars and articles and thus give others suggestions and support. /