Sometimes stress can be a positive force, helping you accomplish tasks more efficiently or motivating you to perform well at your next job interview. However, when you feel unable to perform or cope with a certain situation, you start to experience negative stress.
If you experience this type of stress over a prolonged period, it could become chronic and negatively impact your health and wellbeing.
Not only does chronic stress affect the immune system, but it can also lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, sleep problems, and increase the chances of suffering from a heart attack or stroke.
The relationship between stress and illness is not simple, but there is a definite connection. When we are stressed, the stress hormone, corticosteroid, suppresses the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes (the white blood cells that help fight off infection) present in the blood.
When this occurs, the immune system has a reduced ability to fight off antigens, which is why we are more susceptible to infections.
If high stress levels are not controlled, chronic inflammation can occur and contribute to the development and progression of many diseases of the immune system, such as:
A person who is stressed may resort to unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking or drug use to cope with their stress. Such activities may compromise the immune system and cause other health conditions like headaches, infectious illnesses, diabetes, and gastric ulcers.
There are countless reasons why one can be feeling stressed, especially during this time of social distancing. It could be that you’re dealing with home issues, a stressful job, or financial uncertainty.
It is crucial to understand what is causing your stress and what you can do to reduce those stress levels. Here are a few ways to manage stress and maintain a healthy immune system:
Physical activity is great for improving your physical condition and fighting disease, but it is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness and reducing stress. When you exercise, it initiates a biological cascade of events that results in the release of endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. In addition to the release of endorphins, serotonin is also released, which boosts mood and reduces stress levels.
According to APA’s Stress and Sleep survey, 43 percent of adults report that stress has caused them to lie awake at night. While it can be difficult to lay in silence without thinking about all the stressors in your life, it is important to get enough sleep to improve your health. To help ensure you get the right amount of sleep, try cutting back on caffeine, removing distractions such as your phone or TV from your bedroom, and go to bed at the same time each night.
Bad relationships can be a source of stress, especially when your feelings become bottled up over time. It is important to let go of those relationships that have a clear negative impact on your health and wellbeing. Positive relationships can serve as stress buffers. Surround yourself with close family and friends, and let them know how you are feeling. They may be able to offer practical assistance and support.
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