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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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