Stress and Your Immune System

The immune system is a collection of cells that travel through the bloodstream. They move in and out of tissues and organs, defending the body against foreign bodies such as bacteria, viruses and cancerous cells. Keeping our immune system in top shape should be a top priority at all times, however, now more than ever, we must be diligent.

When most people think about keeping their immune system high, they think about the foods they eat, the drinks they drink and what supplements they take. While all of those things are important to maintain a healthy immune system, there is still one little 6 letter word that can wreak havoc on your system, stress! Stress can potentially cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, a disruption in the digestion system, unwanted hormones released and an increase in adrenaline production.

Over time, these responses can cause imbalances in the body and in turn create a weakened immune system.

So while all stress isn’t bad, in fact we need some stress, long term stress can and needs to be managed.

Here are a few ways you can manage the stress and in turn strengthen your immune system:

  1. Exercise – Exercise is one of the best ways to release tension and stress within the body. Just a 20 minute workout can have tremendous benefit. When we exercise, our bodies release a chemical called “endorphins”; these chemicals are what makes us feel happy after the workout. Not only that but it can calm the nervous system down and allow us to sleep better at night!
  2. Meditation – This specific modality can look different for everyone but when we can take a few minutes to stop focusing on what is stressing us out and bring our attention to just the basics, like breathing, we can shut down the parasympathetic system and reset our bodies. Resetting the nervous system can reduce cortisol levels and lower inflammation in the body! As a bonus, research shows that it can also prevent the breakdown of your chromosomes that leads to cancer and premature aging!
  3. Journal – Put some pen to paper. Most people don’t write things down, instead they allow random thoughts, to-do lists, last week’s issues and our worries and fears to take up way too much space in our minds. The best way to stop the mental stress chatter is to sit down and write it all down. Write down your to-do list, the things that are stressing you out and empty out all of those thoughts even if for a few minutes.
  4. Get Outside – Nature has a way of calming us down. We can reduce our stress levels by simply sitting outside or taking a stroll through the neighborhood. A short break outside can greatly increase our memory and attention spans. (Reference: University of Michigan)
  5. Find a Creative Outlet – With work, kids, home responsibilities and all of the other things in life, we can forget to take some time to focus on activities that bring us joy. Your creative outlet can be anything from painting, playing a musical instrument, creating videos, and coloring, making paper art or cooking.There are even studies that show 45 minutes of being creative can reduce cortisol levels!
  6. Take a Social Media Detox – Social media has its place. It keeps us informed, educated and entertained. What is also has the capability to do is stress us out. Try taking a 24 hour social media detox and see how you feel. If you can’t do 24 hours then try a few hours at a time!

Reducing stress is key, not only to keep your immune system operating at optimal levels but to feel better in general. While these suggestions may not work for everyone, they can be used as a stepping stone to reduce stress and help you feel better overall.

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