Catching colds shouldn’t be our only worry as we switch seasonal gears. According to a study coming out in 2012, it’s possible to catch other people’s stress, too. That’s right—researchers from the University of Hawaii discovered second-hand stress and anxiety can spread in the office just like colds and the flu.
What the what? Turns out our sponge-like brains can absorb co-workers’ emotions, behavioral traits, and facial expressions. Sitting next to a stressed colleague may remind us of our own worries, and we sometimes mimic coworkers’ slouched shoulders and frowns.
Women may be more at risk for catching the stress. Researchers suggest women are often more in tune with other people’s emotions than men, so they’re more likely to pick up on and react to all those stress signals.
While no antibiotic can fight off this bug, try to stick near positive people in the office. If the stress is inescapable, try a morning workout, chamomile tea, or a stick of gum— or choose another option for chilling out!