Stress and Immune Health
We’ve all heard that stress can make us sick. “I’m feeling stressed” is a common refrain – but what does that really mean? Read on to learn more about stress and how it affects our lives, our moods, and our immune health. And learn important coping techniques that can help you when life gets challenging.
What is Stress?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Office of Women’s Health) defines stress: “Stress is a feeling you get when faced with a challenge.” The American Institute of Stress states: “Stress is difficult for scientists to define because it is a subjective sensation associated with varied symptoms that differ for each of us.” There are certain things that most people experience as stressful. These include:
- The death of a loved one
- Loss of a job
- Financial worries
- Major illness or injury
Simple Tips to Reduce Stress
It can be stressful to hear you’re supposed to reduce your stress! How to get out of that Catch-22? Try some of the techniques later in this article, but first try these simple tips that don’t take much time at all:
- Breathe! Close your eyes for a few moments and take slow, deep breaths.
- Get outside. Take a step out and look up at the sky. And breathe!
- Lie down on your back and close your eyes for 5 minutes. An eye pillow makes this even more relaxing. A mat or soft carpet is best.
- Read a novel. Being in another world can take you away from your stress for a while.
- Turn off the TV. It may seem relaxing, but too much stimulation can overexcite your nervous system and make it harder to de-stress.
- Go for a short walk. Or if you have time to get more exercise, even better! Do your favorite work out as often as you can.
- If you feel overwhelmed with things to do, make a list. Then cross off each item as it’s accomplished.
- Give a hug, get a hug! Family and friends love a good hug. And connecting with those you love is a simple way to reduce stress.
Eat Well, Sleep Well
When you’re stressed it’s tempting to eat comfort foods. While you should treat yourself from time to time, too much fat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol can actually stress you more. Caffeine and sugar can put your body on alarm and increase stress levels. And fatty foods and alcohol are known to disrupt sleep, which can leave you feeling even more stressed.
Try to keep a routine of getting the amount of sleep you know you need (usually 7 to 9 hours). That may not always be possible, especially if stress wakes you up at night or prevents you from falling asleep.
To help you sleep better when you’re under stress, consider Schiff® Melatonin Plus. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland that sets your body’s biological clock and initiates sleep. Darkness stimulates the pineal gland and causes it to produce more melatonin. Day light stops your body’s production of melatonin. Taking melatonin at bedtime helps to promote healthy sleep patterns.* Schiff® Melatonin Plus has added Theanine, a natural compound found in green tea. Vitamin B6 plays an important role in brain chemistry and nervous system function.
The Stress-Reducing Power of Nature
Connecting with nature is a powerful de-stressor. Everyone has his or her favorite places – perhaps a beach, a park, or just the backyard of your home. Try to get to a favorite place for a walk. If you can’t get there, look at pictures and then close your eyes and imagine that you’re there. Sometimes just looking at the sunlit sky, the moon or the stars helps us connect with the world and makes us feel better. And if you have a pet, don’t forget that animals are a part of nature that we can connect to every day.
Get the Support You Need
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the stress in your life, it’s time to reach out and get support. Start with those you trust and ask their advice. Then consult with professionals who know how to help manage stress. They can include someone at your place of worship, your doctor, or a therapist. Be sure to take care of yourself.