Stress and our immune system
Stress - No doubt we have all seen the news, while many have brushed it off, the global response to the pandemic is likely to cause some stress and anxiety in people, around preparing for shut downs, getting home if you have been travelling around, job security and handling the thought of kids yelling “hey mum and dad look at this backflip off the couch I can do” for two weeks while under quarantine… yeah safe to say you’re likely to feel a little stressed!
Stress impact on the immune system
While it’s obtusely and annoyingly easy for people to say, “Stress less” and your response to want to high five them in the face with a chair is extremely valid… there is some validity to reducing stress in your environment to better assist your immune system and keep your physical and mental health in a better and more positive and proactive frame.
Stress response, inflammation and the immune system are initiated by the same hormone – Cortisol. Cortisol is our initial response and immediate mediator for stress. Because both mental stress and physical stress are not differentiated by the body. Both are acted upon as a threat and compromise. So, while we are watching the media constantly, delving into conspiracies and people being irresponsible, we are also fuelling a stress response mentally that exhibits a physical response… the release of cortisol.
Cortisol and mediating stress and immune function
The brain and our immune system are in a constant state of communicating and chemical messaging, constantly sampling exterior and interior output of information coming in. This is all happening without a conscious thought, until our conscious thoughts contribute extra burden to this system and priorities are subdivided and deviated. We become far more susceptible to dis-ease states, illness and inflammation because our resources are now no longer what they were before; minding their own business and doing their thing.
Mind over Matter?
This is not to be irresponsible and state that you don’t care, be vigilant and cautious and stay up to date where possible but we do become the products of our environment and if the environment is constantly fuelled with fear from the media, news articles, gossip, conspiracy and anger then we take this on physically; and this is perpetuated as a stress response in the body constantly.
So, how can you find balance and positivity in a time like now?
- Keep your hygiene routine, have a shower and while soaping up, use the rinsing process to visualise it as a rinsing of stress from your body. If you have a mantra you would practice before now that would set up your day for a good day at work, keep this consistent while you’re at home.
- Quarantine at home does not mean you need to be glued to the repetitive media flow of negative reporting. Be aware of your surroundings, what is hype and what is actually happening. Each state has government websites that have the correct information that they are required to update daily. Set aside a time to check this 1-2 times daily for any updates and what you are required to do as an individual in response to the updates and fill the rest of your time with other tasks and talents.
- We are all doing it tough and not everyone has company in their households to help them through and entertain them. We still have the internet and our phones. Make an effort to send 5 people a day a message reaching out to tell them that you care about them, book in a phone call and tell them one thing you admire about them. It will make both of you feel good and help boost those endorphins more!
- Focus on those odd jobs you have been avoiding, windowsills… those belated flies sitting in the nooks, dusting the top of the fridge, sewing that blanket or zip back on. Get crafty, what could you upcycle? Tables that need a sand back and varnish again? Creative writing, using apps like Pinterest to learn to draw or that acoustic guitar that Auntie Sandra bought you two Christmas’s ago gathering dust in the corner… learn some chords on YouTube! No one ever gets sick of “wonder wall” – Oasis…
- Stretch and Roll! Seriously, the release of dopamine and serotonin and the decrease of cortisol that comes from stretching our muscles and moving our body is so fascinating! In somewhat recent research into the biochemistry of stretching the body’s muscles and massage showed a significant average decrease of cortisol by 31% and increased average of serotonin and dopamine by 28% following massage therapy and stretching of the muscles.
Take home message
While it’s annoying to say “Stress less”, it is important! So, get crafty with charades and interpretive dance, get the body moving and the mind healthy at the same time. If you aren’t starting your day sliding into the living room in nothing but your underwear and socks to the risky business theme song with a hairbrush as a microphone, then you ought to start. Remember, calm but vigilant that’s important right now for the entire world!