It’s natural to start feeling your own stress levels rise when someone else tells you how stressed they are about something, but this study takes it to a whole new level.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia, the more stressed out your teacher is, the more stressed you could be. In the study, researches collected saliva samples from more than 400 elementary students, and found that cortisol levels — the hormone that indicates stress — were higher amongst students in classrooms where teachers experienced more “burnout.” In other words, the more emotionally exhausted the teacher is, the more stressed out the students.
This finding suggests that stress is contagious in the classroom. What’s unclear, though, is whether your teacher is stressing you out, or you are burning out your teacher. “This suggests that stress contagion might be taking place in the classroom among students and their teachers,” Eva Oberle, the study’s lead author and assistant professor with the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University’s school of population and public health, said in a statement. “It is unknown what came first — elevated cortisol or teacher burnout. We consider the connection between student and teacher stress a cyclical problem in the classroom.”
No matter what the cause is, chronic stress isn’t good for anybody. The Mayo Clinic points out common symptoms of stress include headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and more. Stress can lead to worsened anxiety, lack of motivation, depression, over- or under-eating, alcohol or drug use, and the list continues. That’s why recognizing stress is important. If you recognize these symptoms, the Mayo Clinic says you’re better able to manage your stress. Ways to cut down on stress include taking breaks, not being so hard on yourself, exercising and eating healthy, and listening to some calming music. Not only will these tips help you relax, but who knows? You could even be helping your teacher out.