Stress has been defined as a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.
Stress may arise as a result of one or all of the following reasons, could be work related stress, emotional stress (yes, an emotionally unstable lad is equal to an emotionally stressed lad and this often makes an appearance in the physical ) stress as a result of traumatic experiences or events. Point is stress is relative and could mean different things to different people.
However, different stress is not good for anyone as it can cause other health challenges which could in turn affect the performance of the immune system leaving it to function unoptimally.
Before we dive into the many problems associated with stress as it relates to the immune system, lets do a brief rundown of the different categories or types of stress, shall we?
This like I mentioned earlier happens to the best of us. It’s the body’s immediate reaction to a new and challenging situation. Acute stress may even occur as a result of an activity which one enjoys. However, severe acute stress may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or even mental health problems.
Episodic Acute Stress
If you’re like me and you suffer from anxiety or you are in constant worry about what could happen at every point in time then you may be susceptible to episodic acute stress.
A person with high stress levels for an extended period of time can be said to be suffering from Chronic stress. If left untreated over a long period of time, chronic stress can significantly damage your physical health and deteriorate your mental health
Let’s quickly get into why prolonged and unchecked stress can be detrimental to your immune system.
Stress leads to the production of cortisol (stress hormone) which helps the body recover. Although,chronic stress can cause excess production of cortisol which leads to depression of some key organs such as the kidney and liver.
Stress hormones weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu and the common cold, as well as other infections. Stress can also increase the time it takes you to recover from an illness because the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. Stress can also have an indirect effect on the immune system as a person may use unhealthy behavioral coping strategies to reduce their stress, such as drinking and smoking.
Here’s what you can do to reduce stress levels and ultimately improve your immune system’s function;
Personally, I like to take some time off to relax preferably with some good music and I strongly recommend but like I already mentioned, stress means different things to different people and coping mechanisms may also vary. Generally, these are some ways to reduce stress;
- Exercise; exercising has a lot of calming effects especially for those who engage in yoga for example as it also cones backed with some meditation which can bring some form of clarity and even healing for some people.
- Take some time off(or days off as the case may be) to recharge; I can’t stress this enough we all need to take breathers at every point in time.
- Talk to a loved one, friend or therapist in order to help put things in perspective
- Make a to do list, having a to-do list helps you record and properly plan your activities thereby relieving you of any overwhelming feelings especially as it has to do with work
- Get a hobbie that helps you relax your mind, for some people it could be gaming, fishing, or just engaging in fun indoor or outdoor activities of their choice.
When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections.