Contagious Stress

This news item caught my eye (‘Can You ‘Catch’ Stress in a Classroom? Science Says Yes’ by S.G. Miller,, 27 June 2016)

Head lice and strep throat aren’t the only things you can catch in a classroom. According to a new study from Canada, stress may be contagious, too.

Researchers found that when 4th- to 7th-grade teachers reported feeling “burned out,” their students also had elevated stress levels.

The article goes on to say that it isn’t known whether stress is passed from teacher to student or the other way around, but I suspect that transmission occurs in both directions.

Reed students have finally begun talking about ‘stress culture’, but I marvel at how resistant Reed faculty have been when it comes to talking about their own stress because it is so obviously pervasive. For over 30 years I have watched faculty (and students) engage in an annual cycle of binge-teaching, binge-scholarship, and binge-relaxation. At the same time we deny that we binge-work even as we complain that we have no time for anything else. We burn the midnight oil with one eye watching the calendar crawl towards Friday. We grasp at mid-semester breaks the way an alcoholic clutches a near-empty bottle of hooch, and we pine for the next vacation and sabbatical. (Yet another symptom: faculty who are on sabbatical are invariably ashamed to admit their status to colleagues who are still teaching and they nearly always apologize for ‘looking so relaxed’.)

My mother always used to say, “moderation in all things.” This quote is often attributed to Aristotle. I wonder if it ever gets mentioned in Hum 110?