By Lisa Philp, RDH, President of Transitions Group North America 

Does simply being near, or watching, stressful situations make you uncomfortable?

Lisa Philp, RDH, President of Transitions Group North America

Lisa Philp, RDH, President of Transitions Group North America

A team at Saint Louis University recently created “secondhand stress” to study whether it could be as contagious as a cold. They had strangers observing a man nearby who was defending himself against a false accusation. The question: Would the stranger catch the accused man’s stress?

After measuring the stranger’s heart rates and cortisol levels, the researchers found that a person could catch another person’s stress, even if they had never met.

“To find that in some people, some of the time, you can elicit these responses just by sitting and watching someone else under stress was somewhat surprising to us,” said Tony Buchanan, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Saint Louis University.

Researchers said that stress can be passed on through things like facial expressions, voice frequency, odor and touch, and that it’s often not good for you.

Over time, chronic stress can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and depression.

And while a person can catch stress from a stranger, studies have shown that you are four times more likely to get it from someone you KNOW…. coworkers, friends and family.

The key is to realize when your stress is someone else’s stress and find ways to let it go and not internalize it. In the dental practice, being a human capital business, each team member must be mindful of what stressors they may be projecting to co-workers and patients.

There is no workplace that is is immune to stressful situations. However, becoming responsive, rather than reactive, is crucial to handling and diffusing negative stress. Reaction is based in habit, response is rooted by choice.  A choice can be made with knowledge.