The body is designed to combat stress, illness, trauma and pain. During times of stress, your adrenaline system activates and floods the body with cortisol and adrenaline. In addition to this, your muscles tense preparing for action, your breathing rate quickens, your heart beats faster and your blood pressure increases. Although these changes are needed when you are in an emergency, if you experience chronic stress, your immune system can become weak and lead to a number of symptoms, including insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, headaches and an increased risk of heart disease and respiratory issues.
A low immune system is one of the side effects of chronic or acute stress. When your immune system is not functioning properly, you are at an increased risk of getting sick. Luckily, there are several ways to decrease your stress levels and improve your immunity. Let’s take a look at the top five ways you can decrease stress and improve your immune health. Each of these is easy to follow, will reduce your stress levels and enhance your immune system so that you can better fight off illnesses.
1. Deep breathing exercises – Harvard Health reports that you can help lower your stress response through deep breathing exercises. When you practice deep breathing, you focus on each breath, which prevents you from experiencing distracting sensations or thoughts. To perform deep breathing, sit down or lie down in a comfortable position. Then, breathe slowly and deeply through your nose as your chest and lower abdomen rises. Finally, slowly exhale through either your nose or mouth. Practicing this breathing technique will help to activate the relaxation response and lower your stress levels.
2. Sleep hygiene – When you are under stress, you often suffer from insomnia. Practicing good sleep hygiene begins with establishing a bedtime routine that includes going to bed at the same time each night. When you do this, your body will become accustomed to going to sleep at a particular time. In addition to going to bed at the same time, you should wake up at the same time each day. In the beginning, you will probably need to set an alarm clock. After some time, your body’s circadian levels will regulate, and you will begin going to sleep and waking up at the same time. In addition to establishing a set bedtime and wake time, you can help get to sleep and stay asleep by using room darkening blinds or curtains, lowering your bedroom temperature and turning off all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
3. Reach out – Your friends and family can become a strong support system to help you cope with stress and improve your immune system. Talk with your support system and let them know what is causing your stress. This may seem difficult, especially if the stress you are experiencing is due to financial difficulties or relationship issues. Reaching out for support not only helps you get it off your chest but can also help you see it through a different set of eyes. Ask your support system for suggestions on how you can better deal with your stress. After all, your health is at stake!
4. Exercise – Exercise is a great way to relieve your tension. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. The National Institutes of Health report that exercise can help to regulate hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol. In addition to this, it increases the production of endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for improving the mood, altering the perception of pain and reducing fatigue. Finally, they communicate with the immune system to ensure that it is functioning properly. For best results, incorporate a variety of flexibility, strength training and aerobic activities.
5. Learn to say no – Being too busy can overwhelm you, increase your stress levels and increase your risk of getting sick. Pruning your workload is the first step towards improving your immunity, decreasing stress levels and enjoying life once again. Take a look at your daily schedule. Are there activities that you can eliminate to help you have more time to relax and enjoy life? Determine which ones you can give up and begin taking care of yourself.
Stress can lower your immunity, resulting in an increased risk of illness. Learn how to prune your workload by saying no, exercise regularly, ask for help and get enough sleep to improve your immunity and lower your stress levels. Finally, elicit the relaxation response through meditation, journaling and deep breathing exercise to help improve your health and lower stress levels.