No matter where you look, it seems like everyone has stress in their life. You stress at home, at work, and even as you drive to work. You might even stress over your marriage, unpaid bills, finances and your health.
Stress itself is quite normal – the stress you feel before a test or interview/event is a type of good stress that gives you a boost of energy to plow through that HUGE test you have, or to help you ACE that interview 🙂
But when you stress for prolonged periods, it’s considered chronic stress – and it can weaken your immune system and be disparaging to your physical and mental health.
How Stress Affects the Immune System
When you experience long term stress, you are weakening your immune system – two ways:
- It creates inflammatory conditions
- Lowers the Immunity of healthy individuals
A weakened immune system opens the doors for a number of health problems – from the common cold to respiratory infections, to more pronounced problems like high blood pressure, heart issues, and even depression.
But exactly how does it affect the immune system?
Chronic continuous stress results in high levels of cortisol circulating int he blood for lengthy periods of time. Long term exposure to cortisol suppresses your inflammation – when in the blood for long periods of time, your body starts to develop a resistance to cortisol and therefore won’t respond to it properly.
The body, in turn, starts to produce substances that promote inflammation — those substances (cytokines) therefore result in inflammatory and autoimmune conditions – your body thinks it’s a threat and then will attack itself in the form of fibromyalgia, lupus, also arthritis, and even health problems that can lead to cancer and heart disease.
Your body needs a protein that is necessary to support your immune system – Lymphocytes are a kill organisms that would cause disease and they also recognize those substances that are potentially harmful so that they can defend your body against them. But when you stress, you find high levels of Cortisol, your lymphocytes are suppressed – risking a weakened immune system.
What can you Do?
You can’t avoid ALL of your stresses, but you can learn how to control your stress effectively. Learn how to deal with stress through better eating habits, exercise, and relationships – not only with people but also with your job.
In some cases you can use essential oils for relaxation and support, too – some of the best oils available include Lavender, Vetiver, Chamomile, Frankincense and Bergamot.
To better manage your stress, try to first identify what things in your life might be the root of your stress/worry ~ once you identify those problems, try to work on ways you can improve.
Getting more sleep and better sleep
Cutting back on electronic devices a few hours before bed, and turn the phone & devices OFF at night can have some profound effects. Combined with reducing sugar, and eliminating caffeine altogether, it may help you score a better & more comfortable rest.
A healthy diet is important too – whole, organic foods (avoiding processed and avoiding sugar)
When your body consumes sugar, your body takes a roller coaster ride. On the way down, you can feel anxious – when your sugar level crashes, your body responds through stress: stress hormones tell the liver to make MORE blood sugar to keep you alive and awake.
On the positive: you DO stay awake – for a short period of time. The bad part? You suffer from a form of anxiety.
Control the amount of sugar, and therefore help alleviate that stressful feeling of anxiety from overindulging in sugary items.
Avoid caffeine and smoking
Caffeine is a stimulant – it initiates a stress response immediately between you and your nervous system. But going off it altogether is going to give you withdrawal symptoms too. Try to get rid of caffeine in all forms – which includes Coffee, Iced Tea, regular tea Tea.
Exercise regularly – 3-4 times a week if not more
If you exercise regularly you tend to feel better. That’s something that typically proves true for everyone.
According to the ADAA, Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Lastly, learn how to establish a support system – it’ll provide comfort for you when you need them the most.