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Health and Trust: The stress of second guessing

What does it feel like to work in a place where you don’t trust your boss and/or your co-workers? Or to live in a marriage where you don’t trust your partner? We all know the answer intuitively – second guessing the people around us is stressful. Ugh.

Every day we arrive on the scene looking for the message behind what’s said, the ‘real intention’ underneath the comment. Every day we look for evidence that things are actually safe before we proceed. We try to see around the next corner.

As this 2008 documentary featuring Robert Sapolsky (Stanford professor of biology and neurology), makes clear, prolonged stress wreaks havoc on our body. Feeling vigilant all the time depletes our resources and erodes our health, altering our physiology in measurable ways. When we live and work around people whose intentions we doubt – without countering that force with our own self-care – our health suffers. 

But there is good news, too.

Because, even though negative and stressful states of arousal can damage our cells, positive and loving states of mind can help us heal. Our bodies are responding to our emotions all of the time.



That’s where Spring’s Be Effective program – Be Healthy: Designing Rejuvenation into Work – comes in. Evidence shows that incorporating small, rejuvenating activities into our days can help us shift our own physiology out of vigilance and into restoration. (Or, to put it another way, we can intentionally activate our parasympathetic nervous system.)

Let’s take what we know from the research about what replenishes the body and mind, and put it to use. Because when our health improves, our work lives do, too. After all, you can’t change other people. But, by tuning into and trusting yourself, you can give yourself breaks, and eventually change the way you feel around them.


Sign up for the Spring Be Healthy program to join the conversation about stress, trust and health in your working life.

Be Healthy: Designing Rejuvenation into Work
Fridays, 8AM – Noon
April 1 & April 29
Madison Concourse Hotel

(Register by March 25)

Katherine Sanders, PhD

Katherine Sanders, systems engineerSystems engineer, Katherine Sanders, helps leaders make informed decisions based on organizational research. She has a BS, MS and PhD in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in human factors and sociotechnical systems. Katherine focuses on the design and leadership of work systems that are not only effective and efficient, but also healthy for those who work within them.

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