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Stop stressing: anxiety is contagious

Fear is useful because it encourages us to be careful. But combined with uncertainty, it turns into anxiety and spreads in the form of panic. Anxiety and panic are counterproductive and make us act irrationally. How can you guard against this?

Brown University professor Judson Brewer was giving a lecture recently, but his students knew that an announcement on the closure of the campus was imminent.

They were stressed out and unable to focus, so Brewer started the lecture with a 15-minute, guided meditation session before getting down to work. Skeptical? Studies show that meditation can reduce anxiety levels by 50 to 60 percent. It’s good for you, and for those around you. If there was ever a time to take up meditation, it has to be now. So how do you get started?

• You might find the short mindfulness exercises available on apps helpful. These offer positive results without taking up too much time;

• When you feel your stress levels rising, take a break — take three deep breaths. Concentrating on a specific part of your body or taking your pulse will calm you down and help you think more clearly;

• Identify exactly when it is that you feel calm in the eye of the storm and live such moments to the fullest. This makes it easier to make them a more permanent state of mind;

• When you start projecting six months or more into the future, bring yourself back to the present as much as possible. There is so much future uncertainty that it is better to focus on day-to-day actions as they crop up.

Any time spent reducing your anxiety will help make those around you less anxious, because stress and anxiety are also contagious. Do it for them too.!

To go further:Anxiety Is Contagious. Here’s How to Contain It.” by Judson Brewer, (Harvard Business Review, 18 March 2020).

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Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.