Turns out other people’s stress can change your brain the way real stress does, and now we’re stressing

We’ve known for awhile that stress sucks and that it can affect the body in a number of ways. From encouraging breakouts to interrupting your sleep, it can impact, well, pretty much everything. Now researchers in Canada are saying it can actually be *contagious* — and that it can totally change how your brain works.

And we’re already stressing about it.

According to a study in Nature Neuroscience, researchers studied how stress impacted mice in a group setting. They learned that stress transmitted from others (e.g. putting a “stressed” mouse in proximity with a totally chill one) altered the brains of the unstressed mice the same way as the *actually* stressed mouse.

Translation: It seems it’s possible to absorbthe worries and anxieties of others and have them impact you in a similar way, even if you’re not experiencing those feelings firsthand. Which is so fun, considering stress can make you more likely to have a heart attack.

"Brain changes associated with stress underpin many mental illnesses, including PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression," says Jaideep Bains, professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Calgary in Canada and one of the study's authors. "Recent studies indicate that stress and emotions can be 'contagious.' Whether this has lasting consequences for the brain is not known."

However, there is some good news. In the same study, researchers discovered the effects of stress were reversed in female mice after socialization. (Sorry, dudes.)

In other words, consider this another reason to get together with your girlfriends and continue to nurture those friendships.

"We readily communicate our stress to others, sometimes without even knowing it, Bains said. “On the flip side, the ability to sense another's emotional state is a key part of creating and building social bonds."

What it boils down to is this: Stress is no joke. Despite the myths about stress some people still believe — for example, that only negative events can cause it — it’s important to be proactive. Taking care of your health and wellness includes more than just exercising and eating right. Surrounding yourself with people you love and with whom you have common interests is key. Here’s a guide to making friends as an adult, because let’s face it, meeting new people becomes harder as we get older.

In the meantime, take a break, grab a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine), and just be. You’re awesome!

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