We’ve been living through a global pandemic, so it’s no wonder that stress levels have crept up in most people’s lives. One of the ways stress impacts our body is by preventing our immune system from functioning at its best. But how can we spot the signs of stress, and what can we do to keep it in check?
good and bad stress
Some stress can actually be good for us. Stress helps our body conserve energy when it’s hungry. It initiates the fight-or-flight response when we’re faced with danger. It also can help the immune system fight off injury and infection. However, chronic or prolonged stress can negatively impact our body’s immune response.
how does stress affect your immune system?
Stress can make you more vulnerable to contracting illnesses. It raises your cortisol levels, which can weaken your immune system if they stay high for too long. Stress can also damage your body’s own cells and even trigger responses from your immune system. These responses include elevating inflammation, which can make you more susceptible to viruses and infections.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of a particularly stressful life event that causes what experts call “chronic stress”—prolonged severe stress. Chronic stress affects the immune system by decreasing the body’s lymphocytes—white blood cells that help fight off infection.
so how do you know if you’re stressed?
Do you find yourself constantly sleepy? Or irritable in some way? These are signs of stress. Other common signs to watch for include acne, frequent headaches, and lack of energy.
Stress also shows up in the form of increased heart rate and tense muscles. This is caused by the brain flooding the body with chemicals and hormones to help you deal with what’s making you stressed or uncomfortable.
If you feel you need help managing stress, consider seeking support or speaking to your health-care provider.
Tips to help you manage stress
Eat a healthy diet
A varied, healthy diet full of micronutrients is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. Eat foods rich in such nutrients as vitamins C and D and zinc, which have been singled out as important for immunity. There are also plenty of plant foods that help mood instability, anxiety, and even depression.
Getting active can help protect your immune system. Exercise doesn’t need to be intense to help manage stress. Moderate-intensity exercise such as walking, jogging, or cycling will do the trick.
Emotions have a big impact on our bodies, so it makes sense that the more connected and supported we feel, the less stressed we’ll be. While you may still need to stay safe and practice social distancing, if you live with people with whom you can safely share a good hug, then go for it!
Article courtesy of Sanitarium Health Food Company. Visit sanitarium.com.au and subscribe to Wholicious Living for more great health and nutrition info each month.