Stress and the Immune System

THE IMPACT THAT STRESS AND ANXIOUS FEELINGS HAVE ON THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

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Many of us would like to feel a little happier, especially in this currently stressful world of Covid-19.  Isolating at home during the Covid 19 pandemic can be one of several stressors that can result in psychological stress, which can in turn lead to a compromised immune system. This can reduce your immunity to viral infections. Reduced immunity is one of the physical symptoms of anxiety that can affect your health and wellbeing.

LAUGHING TO BOOST A WEAK IMMUNE SYSTEM

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One of the best ways of reducing anxious feelings and stress-related issues is to try laughing more often.  Laughing out loud can be an effective way of combating feelings of being socially anxious, especially if you are staying at home during the crisis of Covid-19.  

It has often been said that laughing is the best medicine and it’s true that laughter can directly improve your feeling of wellness and even make you happier at home. You don’t need to be the joker, laughing all the time, but to be happy and to relieve stress symptoms, you need to make laughing out loud a regular part of your day.

WHAT IS STRESS?

We experience stress when demands are placed upon us, but we fear we do not have the resources to cope.  Stress is an internal reaction that can be caused by either physical or emotional pressure. Stress can result in an uncomfortable, anxious feeling that can even cause overwhelming distress.  Such feelings are often described as anxiety disorder or strain. It occurs in circumstances of environmental pain and suffering.  

When feeling highly anxious about possible events, whether real or imagined, a symptom of such anxiety may be its effect on the immune system.

Psychological stress can result in one being socially anxious when going out.  (Social anxiety is the fear of being judged by others).

Overwhelming Psychological stress can result in physical symptoms of anxiety that can affect not only the immune system but your overall health and wellbeing.  

If you are feeling highly anxious about having to stay home alone, it may be that you need to destress, and this might include an online chat with a professional at a health and wellness centre.

EFFECTS OF STRESS

When you are highly anxious, stress affects the body and particularly the immune system. Whether it be a psychological stress, an environmental stress, or even or a physical stress signifying danger, your automatic response mechanism reacts immediately with the “fight-or-flight” reaction.

Stress can be related to your own internal perceptions of an outside force. Stressors or environmental situations, that may impact on your health and wellbeing, cause you not only distress, but to become highly anxious.  When you are regularly in a heightened state of stress, your health and wellbeing is compromised, and you may be at a much higher risk of stroke or heart attack.

SIGNS OF STRESS

When you experience significant stress… either physical, emotional, or psychological stress, your nervous system reacts and causes the adrenal glands to respond suddenly to the stressors, putting a huge strain on your heart.

When the nervous system frequently reacts to stressors, it puts continuous strain on the heart and blood vessels.  When frequent chronic stress is experienced from stressors, this also puts extra strain and stress on your digestive system. So, your heart, your blood vessels and your immune system are all affected. Even children can suffer from childhood anxiety and distress which can compound and develop into chronic stress in adult life.

If you have experienced childhood anxiety, work stress, or chronic stress or feelings of being socially anxious all these stress-related issues have a negative impact on your immune system.

STRESS SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of anxiety and stress

A certain amount of stress in daily situations is normal and can be a good thing, but……

if you are experiencing the following symptoms, you may be experiencing overwhelming stress which may be detrimental to your health and wellbeing …….

These are the warning signs of stress

  • Memory and cognitive problems
  • Feelings of depression or excessive anxiety
  • Lacking clear thinking
  • Anxious feelings or distress
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Digestive problems
  • Problems sleeping
  • Reproductive system issues
  • Feelings of isolation and being lonely

CAUSES OF STRESS

OUTSIDE INFLUENCES THAT CAN AFFECT YOUR STRESS LEVELS …

  • Marriage or partner breakdowns
  • Shifting house
  • Financial difficulties
  • Loss of employment
  • Having a new baby
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Custody battles
  • Overwhelmed with work
  • Change of school, uni. or work
  • Facing a deadline, or exam
  • A death of a family member
  • A major health issue or crisis
  • Hospitalisation
  • A major accident
  • An impending retirement

STRESS MANAGEMENT

We all experience stress and resulting anxiety differently.

Many people, facing challenging situations, thrive on the adrenalin rush whereas others melt with anxiety and are overwhelmed with anxious feelings, resulting in sleepless nights and psychological stress and strain.

These unexpected emotions caused by sudden stress can be tremendously debilitating. When a person experiences one, two or more of these stress related situations all at the same time, this could lead to major chronic stress, depression, serious health, and wellbeing issues, all affecting your immune system.

It’s always wise to seek a professional’s advice if you find yourself suffering with overwhelming stress and anxiety, whether it be from external stress causes or from emotional or psychological stressors.

HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?

Whether it be psychological stress, work stress, exam stress or just feeling stressed and depressed, studies have shown that your immune system function will be affected to some degree.

Depending on the severity of the stress the responses to stress vary somewhat. Many changes to behaviours can occur, putting stress on the immune system. Such examples might be influences to sleeping patterns or increased alcohol use, changes to diet, a precondition to health and wellbeing issues.

For a healthy immune system, it is particularly important that the body has an adequate amount of the varying types of immune cells. Studies have shown that differing degrees of stress and stressors can play a damaging role in the capacity of the immune system to function normally.

Studies have shown that in some cases of increased levels of stress, there were changes to a person’s immunity because of their age, precondition health issues plus other issues such as bereavement and trauma. This chronic stress made them more vulnerable to a significant decrease in T cell response and the killer cell cytotoxicity, when subjected to infections and viruses.

Stress shifts the balance of the immune response and opens it up to becoming a weak immune system. Psychological stress, acute stressors, anxious thoughts and thinking patterns of behaviour weaken a person’s health and wellbeing and it eventually takes its toll on your immunity.

A healthy immune system subsequently becomes a compromised immune system and is more susceptible to infections, virus, and other health issues.

3 WAYS TO BEST DEAL WITH…

THE SYMPTOMS OF STRESS,

ANXIETY AND

THE STRESSORS IN YOUR LIFE…


1 LAUGHTER AS STRESS RELIEF

LAUGHTER IMPROVES HEALTH AND WELLBEING

There are many ways to relieve stress but laughing is the best medicine to destress and unwind. When we are with friends, family and with kids, laughing is a great way to relieve stress and anxious feelings.

Laughing is the best medicine for not only releasing stress but laughing has the power to help overcome and heal any anxious thoughts and feelings.

LAUGHTER AND HEALING

The experience of laughing and being a happier person releases endorphins in the brain allowing you to better cope with pain and anxious feelings. This allows the body to heal itself. These naturally produced endorphins affect the nervous system when laughter occurs and allows the body to better cope with pain, whether it be from psychological stress or other stressors that put strain on your everyday health and wellbeing.

Laughing with friends can reduce anxiety about health, giving you a better feeling of self-worth and wellness.

LAUGHTER AS EXERCISE

The body needs regular physical exercise and a good belly laugh exercises many muscles, A good dose of laughter is healthy as laughing is the best medicine to relieve stress and anxious feelings while reinvigorating the body. There is nothing better than laughter to soothe the mind, body, and spirit. Laughter is often regarded as a stress release, just the same as physical exercise.

Laughing is an anxiety reducing exercise. So, watch a funny movie when you can.  Laughter benefits your health and wellbeing and can consequently improve your immune system.

LAUGHTER AND HAPPINESS

Laughing is a great way to destress and allow highly anxious feelings to subside for a moment and allow you to be or feel much happier.  Laughing out loud at a joke or comedy show releases tension and stress.

Laughter not only helps to relieve stress but helps you to feel a much happier person. Laughter boosts not only your mood but enhances your emotional health and wellbeing, while helping protect your immune system from the effects of stress.

Join a laughing group

Perhaps join a laughing group. These groups are specifically set up to destress the body from stressed or depressed feelings. It helps socially anxious people to cope better while in a small group and is a way of meeting new friends.

These groups have found that laughing improves a person’s health and wellbeing and people feel much happier within themselves. Laughing with others strengthens a person’s resilience to stress.

Laughing, as when someone tells a joke, is releasing stress and boosting your happiness level.

2 EXERCISE TO RELIEVE STRESS

It’s always a good idea to regularly schedule an exercise program because it allows the body to destress from daily work stress tensions or any unforeseen stressors that may affect your health and wellbeing.

Exercise is an excellent remedy for stress symptoms.

Benefits of exercise on your health and wellbeing

Exercise not only stimulates movement in the muscles and joints, but it pumps good blood flow to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels around the body, while filling the lungs with oxygen.

If you’re out of shape, stuck behind a desk all day, or feeling stressed and depressed, exercise (even indoors) will not only activate, but boost your brain’s production of the feel-good endorphin.

These endorphins are important for strengthening the immune system and your overall health and wellbeing while building a much happier person and a better sense of self.

So, set a goal to exercise more, engage in walking, yoga, or more physical exercise as this helps alleviate stress and anxious feelings.

Get up out of the chair or from in front of the TV and start walking. Buy a bike (or exercise bike) and ride with a friend. If possible, join a walking group, meet new friends, and explore the outdoors and you will soon feel happier.

To relieve stress in cold weather or if you don’t like walking outdoors, join the local shopping centre walking group who walk safely around inside. 30 minutes of low impact exercise will strengthen your muscles and joints and provide a boost to your immune system and your mood, while strengthening your health and wellbeing.

Exercise helps you become a much happier person

  • + Exercising Regularly Strengthens Your Health and Wellbeing
    • It’s an excellent remedy for stress symptoms. Walking, running, jogging all destress the body from stress related issues. Deep breathing increases better oxygen flow to the lungs and heart and strengthens the immune system function.
  • + Exercise Improves Your Mood
    • Join a dance class, exercising while meeting new people improves your mood and you will be a much happier person.
  • + Exercise Increases Your Energy Levels
    • It helps you to cope with the stressors in your life. Your immunity will improve, and you will feel happier.
  • + Exercise Helps You Sleep Better
    • Most people need 8 hours per night of good quality sleep to cope with the day’s events. Exercise increases your deep sleep and your quality of health and wellbeing improves.

3 BUILD STRONG SOCIAL BONDS

Socialising helps to relieve stress.

There is huge value in socialising for stress reduction. Socialising strengthens your immune system and those who do appear to have increased longevity. A strong engaged social network of happy, laughing friends not only improves your health and wellbeing, it supports your brain health, lowers your blood pressure and wards off any symptoms of anxiety or stress related issues.

Socialising and increased laughter greatly decreases stress while helping you to feel much happier at home. Having good social connections where you can perhaps all be laughing out loud strengthens your immune system are and is a great ways to become happier in life.

It’s important to surround yourself with positive people who promote laughter that you can feel relaxed with, while having a lot of fun.

To relieve stress, set about increasing your endorphin levels. Meet with friends or family on a regular basis as connecting with others, laughing, having fun, or watching a funny movie together is a great way to engage in lots of laughter and destress.

Meeting with friends on a regular basis for coffee or lunch will aid in helping you feel happier.

If you have any of the signs of stress, symptoms of anxiety, or feel stressed or depressed, and you feel your health and wellbeing may have affected your immune system in some way, it’s important to seek advice from a professional health provider and get a health check.

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