Stress: How it wrecks your immune system (and how to fix it)
In one sentence here’s the deal when it comes to stress and how it affects your immune system.
Stress wrecks your immune system.
And here’s the kicker… you can’t avoid stress completely so you need to learn how to deal with it in a way that doesn’t wreck your immune system. In fact, stress is an important part of life. Without stress life as we know it would not exist. Stress is necessary for the healthy development and growth of both plants and animals… but not the kind of stress you’re probably feeling right now.
The kind of stress we all wrestle with these days is not the same kind of stress your body was built to handle. Short-term stress is the kind of stress your body can handle. Ya know… running away from a falling tree, or holding your ground against a wild animal. That kind of short-term stress ramps up your body for some intense action which involves heightened senses, improved defense against infections and disease, and better wound healing capabilities. Those positive reactions to stress only last for a short amount of time though (a few days), then your body begins to suffer beyond that point.
When was the last time you were literally running or fighting for your life?
The kind of stress most of us face today is not an intense, life or death type scenario, but is never ending. Relationships, money, work, peer pressure, rent, mortgages, etc… these are the types of stresses most of us face on a daily basis.
The stress that never ends is the stress that breaks us down. The constant drip, drip, drip of cortisol and other stress hormones is not normal and it causes your immune system to breakdown and overreact – leading to frequent illness and even autoimmune problems.
Here’s how to “fix” it.
Step 1: Learn to accept the fact there is no “fixing” the stress problem, only better ways to manage it. It doesn’t really matter if you’re rich, poor, young, old, fat, thin, male, female, transgender, single, married, or whatever… every scenario comes with it’s own set of problems and stressors. Accepting that is step one.
Step 2: To borrow a line from a Frozen 2 song… simply focus on “the next right thing.” There’s a lot of quotes about the importance of not to worrying about stuff you can’t do anything about at the moment. Easier said than done, but true. You can couple this mental strategy of stress reduction with a few physical strategies in hopes of lowering your stress hormone levels (since now you know eliminating stress completely isn’t possible). Gentle exercise (like walking or yoga) or meditation are two great places to start.
Step 3: Make sure that one system in your body and controls and coordinates your body’s stress response is working well – your autonomic nervous system! As far as stress goes, this is where the rubber meets the road. If your autonomic nervous system isn’t working well then your body won’t be able to handle stress well. People that have autonomic nervous system issues not only have hard time with stress, but many of them also struggle with other chronic health issues like headaches, muscle tension, indigestion, and trouble sleeping.
If you don’t handle stress well even though you’ve been trying to change things up a bit and you’re wondering if it has something to do with your autonomic nervous system then we recommend you get it tested.