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Chronic Stress Makes Your Immune System Less Sensitive, Science Finds

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Chronic Stress Makes Your Immune System Less Sensitive, Science Finds

 Are you stressed out?

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself coming down with something.

Stress is what happens to your body when it senses a threat. Your nervous system releases a flood of stress hormones called adrenaline and cortisol that ready the body for emergency action. You may feel your heart pounding, your muscles tense, and your breath quicken. These physical changes increase your stamina, strength, and speed up your reaction time. This is known as “fight or flight,” and is your body’s way of protecting you.

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The effects of stress on your immune system

Normal stressors can help you perform under pressure, keep you alert and on your toes, and keep you safe when in danger. When stress reaches beyond your comfort zone, it stops being helpful and becomes overwhelming, damaging your mood and relationships. It can also damage your mental and physical health.

The body cannot always distinguish between normal daily stressors and life-threatening, or traumatic events. Stressing over bills, an argument, or being late to work can cause your body to react as if you’ve become face-to-face with a bear. When you repeatedly experience the fight-or-flight stress response, your health can pay the price. Stress can shut down your immune system, increasing your risk of getting sick.

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The immune system is suppressed when the stress hormone or cortisol levels are elevated. An individual experiencing severe prolonged emotional stress for example, is exhausted. Their adrenals and thyroids are fatigued. The minerals needed for the immune system to function are depleted. As your immune system weakens, the production of immune system cells is stopped, leading you to get sick a lot easier.

Tips to manage stress

One way to protect yourself from getting sick is to learn how to manage stress. There are many things you can do when you find yourself stressed out.

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Rhythmic exercises

You can do this right now to start to feel better. Activities that involve moving both your arms and legs are quite effective at managing stress. Rhythmic exercises, such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are great especially if you can focus your attention on the physical sensations your body feels as you move. Exercise can help loosen you up and put the stressor behind you.

Get together with others

There is something about connecting with another human that can trigger stress-relieving hormones. When you’re feeling uncomfortable, anxious, or unsafe, even a brief exchange of kind words or a smile with someone, can calm and soothe your nervous system. Helping others can also offer stress-reducing pleasure, as well as giving you an opportunity to expand your social circle.

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Use one or more of your senses

A great way to relieve stress quickly is to use one or more of your senses: sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound.  Find the sensory input that works best for you. For some, listening to an energetic song makes them feel calm, others might enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass, or petting a fluffy cat. Try it out and find the sensory input that works best for you.

Reduce sugar and processed foods

Sugar and processed foods can make us more stressed because they are absorbed by the body too quickly, which makes our blood sugar levels unstable. When it’s unstable, we get irritated more easily. Try whole foods and replace your soft drinks with a cup of herbal tea!

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Melissa Atkinson

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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