Renewal as an Antidote to Chronic Stress


Week 2’s module on Renewal As an Antidote to Chronic Stress was a timely topic as I dove through a rough week of deadlines, presentations, chores and other family responsibilities. Indeed, emotions- both positive and negative are contagious. The saying happy wife, happy life perhaps is a good metaphor for the term emotion contagion. A happy wife spreads her energy and fills the home with much love, warmth and laughter. In the same vein, an emotionally positive individual creates a good vibe in the workplace. On the contrary, negative emotions spread like wildfire and can be passed on unconsciously. Perhaps it was a simple comment (i.e. ‘whatever’) or a brush of disregard (i.e. eye rolling) which led to the other person feeling unheard, disrespected, or undervalued. Being mindful therefore is key in order for us to be attuned to our emotions and reflect on how we impact others.

Emotional contagion does not only exhibit itself externally (e.g. behavior manifestations like laughing out loud or screaming at the top of your lungs) but neurologically as well. Mild or acute stress can activate the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). It’s scary to imagine that at the wake of stress, our body’s physiological reaction results in increased blood pressure, shallowed and uneven breathing, diminished functioning of our immune system as well as impairment in our cognition and perception. On the contrary, renewal is activated by the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Activation of the PNS results in our body neurologically rebuilding itself, strengthening of our immune system, and mentally being open to new experiences, learning and change.

How then do we engage in renewal experiences? Dr. Boyatzis suggested four ways in order to create and further enhance resonant relationships.

1. Practicing mindfulness either through meditation, yoga, tai chi, prayer and consistent physical exercise

2. Showing compassion by engaging in a healthy relationship, taking care of pets, volunteering and helping those in need

3. Emphasis on being hopeful by thinking and dialoguing with others about our personal or shared dreams, visions and purpose

4. Engaging in playfulness through laughter and doing things that bring about happy emotions

I would love to hear your thoughts on emotional contagion. What recent experience triggered extreme anger and annoyance in you? How did you react to this emotion? What is the result of your reaction to these extremely negative emotions? What about experiences of renewal? What have you done or tried that creates an opportunity for your to detox and de-stress and feel renewed, reenergized and refreshed? 

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