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How stress can suppress the immune system

How stress can suppress the immune system

We are living in unprecedented times, that stress can suppress our Immune System. The coronavirus known as COVID-19 is in the news and the entire world is under lockdown for a pandemic, the likes of which has never been seen before. People are being encouraged to stay at home in order to protect the NHS. There are constant updates in the news media channels, describing the negative impact of the virus. But is this helping us?

 A constant negative bias creates anxiety and fear. This creates a cascade of chemical release in the body that can suppress the Immune system at a time when we need it to be at it’s best. So what can we do to mitigate the situation? What strategies can we use to support ourselves and our family at this time?

The stress effect from constant News 24/7.

The news media has a very narrow focus and thrives  on a negative bias. It tries to  create an emotive response to a situation.  For example, when cases are going down, they spin it the other way and say ” the cases are not rising”.  They constantly quote the death rates but never balance that with the thousands that have recovered.

 This  hyperarousal in the hindbrain, in particular the amygdala, creates worry and anxiety. The amygdala is there to mobilise you to do something about the situation to help yourself.  Emotive stories paint a picture of things out of control and as humans, we hate to be out of control . As such, we create induced helplessness and shutdown.

‘Remember , ‘STRESSED’  spelt backwards spells desserts !!

We have all been there. When we are stressed we look for quick fix foods. “Chocolate, Wine, G&T  anyone?” These are high calorie foods and when we are stressed, will be stored as fat. Try to eat more protein, healthy fats, like nuts & seeds and low carbs. You”ll be glad you did. If you do have that chocolate craving, try dark chocolate instead.  If you would like help on foods to support you immune system, pls contact me.

How do we overcome this state? Here are a few suggestions.

Realise that we are in unprecedented times. There is a lot that we cannot control.  Do not use valuable headspace worrying about things you can’t control.  Use that to work out strategies to things you can exert some control over. Think of a time when your back was up against the wall, how did you overcome it? What did you have to do? What mindset did you adopt?

  • TURN OFF THE NEWS! The news media is dominant in our society. If you are constantly checking updates, you are stressing your body. You will be in a ‘fight or flight’ state. This involves high levels of cortisol to keep you primed ready for action. Good when you are fighting a sober-toothed tiger, not so good when you are sat down watching the TV. Your prefrontal cortex, our higher functioning part of the brain is switched off and you  will be operating from your hindbrain which is very reactionary. You won’t be able to think rationally. More importantly, your immune system is suppressed and you will store fat. the body can’t be in rest and repair and fight or flight, at the same time.
  • BREATHE! Taking time to breathe properly is so important. Count to ten when stressed is an old adage button of great merit. When we are stressed, we take short breaths from the top of the chest, the lower lungs do not fill correctly. Your belly should move before the upper chest if you are breathing correctly. Trying breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 5.  A longer out breath switches your system into a parasympathetic state, which instantly calms the body. 
  • EXERCISE is fantastic for mind and body. We are designed to move. When we exercise in nature, we get a double whammy. According to the Woodland Trust,  Scientific studies have shown that ‘green exercise’ can improve self-esteem and mood, as well as reducing anxiety disorders and depression. So get outside in nature as often as possible.
  • MEDITATE. If you can find time in the day just for you. Meditation can be different things to different people. Even if its a five minute walk outside, it will help you refocus.

Ultimately realise that as the old proven says, ‘this too will pass’. Work on being the person you want to be when this all over, so you are ready to move forward in a new reality.

If stress really is an issue and causing your health to suffer, contact me for details of my Rest, Refresh, Renew programme of one to one coaching

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