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Stress and the Immune System

AND WHAT THE CORONA VIRUS HAS TO DO WITH IT

I decided to write this blog when I heard about my friend’s 6 year old daughter today. She was in the car with her mum, listening to the radio. On the radio she heard a person calling the radio station to report a traffic issue. Then she told her mum “I want to call the radio station too”. So her mum asks “Why do you want to call the radio station?” to which she replied “Because they should talk about something else other than corona virus. I keep hearing corona, corona… I want them to stop this!”

What a wonderful story and how much it can teach us. It needs a little child to tell us what’s wrong. It needs that fresh and unconditioned mind of a child to see that this panic mongering does not feel good. It is not healthy.

Ok, we get it. We need to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our society from harm. We don’t want to put anyone at risk. And we are happy to take all the precautionary steps we are advised to take, not to put anyone in danger. We don’t want to play it down. But please, we need constructive tips, not panic as panic does not help the situation.

And the least it helps our immune system which is critically important to fight viruses or any other infections. In fact, there are numerous studies on the detrimental influence of stress on our immune system (Psychol Bull. 2004 Jul; 130(4): 601–630). So, stress and worry are the last things we need. Worry in this situation is for nothing. It is just imagining a hypothetical event. It is draining our energy and makes us feel down. This is due to the physical impact stress has on our bodies.

FIGHT & FLIGHT MODE

During a stressful situation our body switches to a 'fight & flight' mode. It is flooded with stress hormones, mainly adrenalin and cortisol. This results in quickened breath, heart rate increase, rising blood pressure and tensing muscles. So basically, we are ready for action. All other bodily processes not needed in response to the danger are temporarily shut down, and this includes our immune system. The normal scenario would be, that the body returns to normal 'rest & digest' mode after the stressful situation is over.

This mechanism has been with us for thousands of years but is only designed for the short-term. But what goes on when we worry? Worry usually goes on for a while. Worry is very different from the feeling of fear. Fear as such is a good thing and is necessary as it alerts us and can therefore protect us when we are in danger. But worrying is just repeating negative thoughts over and over without being able to take appropriate action. It drains our energy. It puts us in fight & flight mode over a prolonged period of time. Such chronic stress leads to a constant release of stress hormones which over time lead to inflammation and a suppression of the immune system.

So now that we have seen how useless worrying is, let’s be more mindful about it. Notice it and don’t give it so much space in your mind.

Fighter Fight & Flight Mode Stress

Instead, let’s look at the situation from a positive angle. What are the things we can do? What are the things that could empower us? What could we do to strengthen our immune system? In fact, there are so many things we can do. I just want to mention a few.

people walking in forest fresh air sunshine healthy life style

HAVE A HEALTHY LIFE STYLE

  • eating healthy whole foods consisting of lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • drink enough water
  • stop smoking and avoid or reduce the consumption of alcohol
  • enough and regular sleep
  • exercise regularly, ideally in the fresh air with exposure to sun light
  • regular periods of rest
  • reduce EMF exposure

DITCH WORRY AND NEGATIVE THINKING

Through my therapy work I cannot stress enough how important this is. Our mind has tremendous power, but it is critically important what we feed it. Do we nourish it with good and healthy thoughts, or do we clutter and pollute it with worry and negative thoughts?

Realise that even though you might find it difficult to stop worrying and feeling anxious about the whole situation around the corona virus, there are actually many things you can do yourself. And these things can have a huge impact on your level of worry and anxiety. So just take your power back. And please give yourself a moment, take a deep breath and feel that sense of empowerment.

TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR LEVEL OF WORRY AND ANXIETY:

  • Everyone has inner conversations. If you are worried and anxious, allow some time each day (a given and restricted time, e.g. 10 min at 2pm) for an inner conversation with fear and worry. Give them a voice and ask them what they are concerned about. Listen to them and acknowledge whatever they have to say. You will notice, when put to the spot, they have very little to talk about. Then tell them what you are going to do about it, what actions you are going to take (for example some of the tips I am giving you in this blog). Then once the time is over, stop allowing worry to enter your mind. Make it clear that it had its time and that it is now time for positive and constructive thoughts. If worry persist just tell it to get lost. (yes that does work!)
  • Practice this simple breathing technique - square breathing pattern. Close your eyes and imagine a square, breathe in through your nose 1,2,3,4, then hold the air in your lungs for 1,2,3,4, then breathe out through your mouth 1,2,3,4, then hold your breath for 1,2,3,4, before breathing in again. In your mind perform the different steps around the imagined square and repeat this for about 5 minutes.
reduce worry and anxiety and breathe neon sign with plants in background
  • Radically reduce your exposure to the news. Just watch, read or listen to the essential information communicated by your relevant health authorities and government so that you are always up-to-date on the steps you should take and regulations you need to follow. Do this only for a restricted time each day. For example, 30 min per day (important: not before going to bed!).
  • If you are in a situation that you cannot leave your house at the moment, don’t be annoyed about it but appreciate this time. See it as a present to have time with yourself, to center yourself and to reflect. Do the things for which you would not have had the time otherwise. Read a good book, treat yourself to a nice bath, do some handicraft or play games with the kids, get back to knitting, cook a delicious meal, play an instrument or do yoga. Be in the moment and be grateful for it. It is also a time to learn someting new, time to grow. Currently, various companies and organisations give away free or reduced-price online courses.
  • Watch your language. Never call them ‘my worries’ or ‘my anxiety’. They are not yours. In fact, you want to get rid of them so please, never call them 'my'. Understand that ‘my’ is a very powerful word for your mind, so only use it for the things you really want.
  • Get a journal and start every morning with writing down 3 things you are grateful for. And just before falling asleep at night also think about 3 things you are grateful for.
  • Realise, whilst this current situation is quite scary, that you are resilient. Our ancestors have been through much more hardship and they have survived. In fact, they would consider our lives as a walk in the park. So put things into perspective and understand that the most important is not the actual event but our interpretation of it.

FREE MEDITATION 'BEAT ANXIETY & BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM'

If you want to do more and give yourself the extra boost of energy, you can listen to my free ‘Beat Anxiety & Boost your Immune System’ meditation. You will achieve the best results if you listen to it daily for a couple of weeks. Please also pass this link to family, friends and colleagues who might feel worried and anxious.

22/03/2020

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If you want to find out more about my work or are interested in an RTT Therapy session with me just get in touch by clicking the link below.

1 COMMENT
  • Frank
    Reply

    Very uplifting and great tips

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