Stress is 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. Every human feels stress at some point in life as it is also an essential part of life and an indicator that we are alive and functioning. However, while stress is a natural occurrence, too much stress can cause health challenges and also impact the performance of the immune system.
Stress is relative and can mean different things to different people but generally speaking, we can categorize it using the following parameters and as already established in the definition above; physical stress, mental stress, or emotional stress which can stem from career, human relationships, and or physical activities.
TYPES OF STRESS
This, as 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 that 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 cause you to experience a decline in your mental health. Although stress leads to the production of cortisol (The stress hormone) which helps the body recover. Chronic stress can cause excess production of cortisol which may negatively affect the function of key organs in the body such as the kidney and liver.
Can Stress Affect The Immune System?
People who suffer chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu and common cold, as well as other infections. This happens because when the body is stressed it increases the time it takes you to recover from an illness due to the immune system’s inability to fight off antigens. Stress can also have an indirect impact on the immune system as seen in those who rely on unhealthy behavioral coping strategies such as drinking and smoking to reduce their stress levels.
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 it 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 and meditation, it has been said to bring about some form of clarity and even healing.
- 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 and not just when we feel overwhelmed but from time to time, take a break, go leave, disconnect for a little while and see just how much that can do for your mind, soul and body.
- Talk to a loved one, friend, or therapist in order to help put things in perspective whenever it starts to feel like you’re confused, bitter, weak, or heavily ladened.
- Make a to-do list; having a to-do list helps you record and properly plan and monitor your day to day activities thereby relieving you of any overwhelming feeling especially as it relates to work
- Get a hobby that helps you relax your mind; for some people, it could be gaming, fishing, or just engaging in fun indoor or outdoor activities with friends and loved ones.