De-Stress Your Over-Stressed Immune System
Lowering stress is beneficial to all aspects of your health. High stress can trigger illness as well as headaches, fatigue and irritability. Reducing stress will go a long ways to improve your overall quality of life.
How does Stress Affect the Immune System?
Short term stress can actually boost the immune system. As your body goes through its fight or flight responses, it's also readying itself for infection. Long term, or chronic, stress has the opposite effect and suppresses the immune system.
Symptoms of Stress
Physical symptoms of stress may include headache, tension elevated heart rate, upset stomach, stiffness and increased blood pressure. Behavioral symptoms of stress include irritability, moodiness, difficulty focusing, lack of mental clarity and trouble sleeping.
Types of Stress
There are actually a number of different types of stress, ranging from the very short term to very long term. Acute, time limited stressors are specific and short, like public speaking. Stressful event sequences are large events that we know will eventually end, but still cause serious challenges. This could include the death of a loved one. Chronic stressors are long term, seemingly endless events, such as the caring of a parent diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Distant stressors are events that occurred in the past, such as child abuse or war experiences. These may take long term counseling to treat. Although the type of stress may vary, experts agree the longer stress affects you, the more detrimental it can be to your immune system. Age and illness will make it harder to get well.
Chronic Stress Affects the Body's Functions
Chronic, or long term, stress affects many of the body's functions. It affects the immune system, making you even more susceptible to illness and disease. A suppressed immune system leaves you unprotected against serious infections, which is why we see HIV and AIDs patients die from simple infections. Chronic stress can also cause cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and is linked to heart attack and heart failure. It causes muscle pain and affects rheumatoid arthritis. It can cause stomach and intestinal problems, affect menstruation and erectile function and skin conditions.
Stress should be taken seriously. There is no need to suffer from more stress than absolutely necessary. There are certain unavoidable factors that may cause stress, like marital problems, money problems and traffic, but other stress can be avoided. If your job is a serious source of stress, consider the possibility of moving to other areas of the company, or leaving entirely. Make a list of factors in your life that stress you out, then sort the list into two categories: avoidable and unavoidable. Work to eliminate the avoidable stressors.
Tips to Manage Stress
If you'se eliminated the stress triggers that you can avoid, now you need to learn ways to manage your stress. What situations stress you out? If a long car drive to work is a trigger, figure out ways to alleviate the stress. Can you take a different route or drive at a different time? Maybe listening to a certain kind of music will help. Practice taking deep, relaxing breaths in situations where you feel stress.
Other Tips to Manage Stress
- Regular Exercise
- Deep breathing
Consider making a list of stress management strategies that work for you. Keep this list in mind when facing stressful situations. By reducing levels of stress and reacting positively to stress, you can stay healthy. Remember in small, infrequent doses stress can be good for you.