Have You Caught an ‘Emotional Virus’?

Have you ever found yourself suddenly ill at ease? You might feel flustered or agitated. Your heart starts to race, or you catch yourself darting toward the door or to the kitchen to do some mindless comfort eating.

  • Who is in the room with me?
  • Who did I just talk with?
  • What did I just experience?
  • What’s going on around me?

Negative emotions from the people around us — including fear, worry, anxiety, and stress — pass from one person to another quickly, often with few or no words, like a highly contagious virus.

If you spend an evening, for instance, social distancing outdoors with stressed-out neighbors who are drinking heavily, do you have a hard time keeping your own drinking in check? Does your workday start out productive but end up derailed from a snarky colleague’s endless rants? If you’re volunteering in your community, do you come home feeling de-energized after being pelted with committee members’ countless complaints?

Even our physical health and our susceptibility to medical diseases are related to the company we keep. What we eat, how much we sleep, how sedentary we are, and how much exercise we get is strongly influenced by the