How Stress Could be Affecting Your Immune System

Your immune system is a functioning miracle.

Tasked with protecting your entire body – inside and out – from compromising forces, your immune system needs to be on the lookout for invaders like bacteria, toxins, foreign pathogens, unfamiliar allergens, viruses and more. And it performs its job so well that most of the time, you’re not even aware of all of the many things your immune system is doing to keep you safe.

It’s in your best interest to give your immune system every benefit in the world. Basic wellness practices like consuming a healthy diet, getting enough sleep each night and limiting alcohol intake can go a long way toward helping your immune system succeed. However, you also need to be aware of the “silent killer” that can compromise your immune system without you ever realizing it: stress.

A natural reaction in the body to tense situations, stress is often described as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed, helpless or under pressure as a result of life’s events. Whether it’s a late bill, a difficult conversation or something like attending a public event, stress can result from a tense event, or even the anticipation of some outcome yet to happen. And just like consuming a poorly-balanced diet, excessive or unmanaged stress can impede your immune system from protecting your body in all the ways it should.

How does stress manifest itself in my immune system?

It is absolutely possible that stress could be negatively affecting your immune system functionality. When stress does begin to take a toll on all the ways that your immune system usually protects your body from harm, it can start to show in a variety of ways. 

Here are some of the ways that stress can manifest in the body:

1) Cold sores

A small inflammation in or near the mouth, a cold sore can form as a natural result of stress affecting your immune system. Also identified as “fever blisters,” cold sores can appear purely as a natural result of stress rooted in natural life events or anticipated life events.

2) Swollen lymph nodes

One of the first indicators that your immune system is facing an uphill battle, swollen lymph nodes could be a clear indication that stress is negatively affecting your immune system. While swollen lymph nodes could also be the result of many other health concerns, when paired with stress they provide a clear indication that your immune system is suffering.

3) Increased risk for sickness or infection

Ultimately, this is the effect that’s most concerning: besides the above mild physical manifestations of stress on the immune system, stress can leave the immune system itself more susceptible to sickness or infection.

As the first line of defense for your body, your immune system can’t afford to take a day off. And when stress puts your immune system itself under the weather, it can spell trouble. It’s in your best interest to keep stress at a minimum, so that you can keep your immune system working at full capacity.

How can I keep stress at a minimum?

Look to keep stress at a minimum, to give your immune system the very best chance to succeed against everything life wants to throw at it.

So, how do you manage stress? We’ve outlined 4 suggestions if you’re looking for concrete ways to get a handle on your emotions:

1) Attitude is everything

The first step to keeping your immune system healthy is minimizing your stress. And the first step toward minimizing your stress levels is your attitude. When it comes to reducing stress in your life, keeping a positive attitude regardless of the circumstances surrounding you is so important. Some events in your life are simply outside of your control. And when one of those events takes place, the only thing you can control is your outlook. Adopting a positive attitude on life, regardless of its events, good and bad, is the first step toward minimizing stress and promoting lasting immune system health.

2) Right exercise, right diet

You can take the edge off of your stress simply by doing the simple things right. This starts with a healthy amount of exercise, even if that exercise is as simple as a walk around the neighborhood or a run around the block. Whether you’re lifting weights, riding a bicycle simply counting jumping jacks, make time in your day for simple exercise and an increased heart rate.

You can also take steps toward minimizing stress levels, simply by pursuing healthy diet practices. In particular, prioritize natural ingredients, foods without any artificial ingredients or synthetic flavors. Look to consume a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy meats, fats and appropriate calorie counts.

3) Get enough sleep

Not much to elaborate on here: to give your immune system the best chance to succeed, minimize stress. And getting enough sleep each night is one of the best ways to minimize stress in your life. Set parameters in your day to make sure that you’re getting to bed at appropriate times. If you find that your computer, your television or your phone are distracting you from that established bedtime, consider putting down all technology 30 minutes before you get into bed. This will help ensure that you get enough sleep each night, and it will also help you wind down for the evening.

Please note that the above stress-management tactics are actions you can take in your own home. However, they are not meant to substitute for prescribed stress medication, support group help or the advice of a certified medical professional. If you think that you need extra support for your stress, consult the advice of a medical specialist.

Giving your immune system a fighting chance

Your immune system is a functioning miracle. And by minimizing stress, you can give your immune system even more of a chance to protect your body in all the best ways. With simple actions like getting enough sleep, fulfilling your daily exercise quota and establishing a consistently positive attitude, you can actually help your body take definitive steps toward a happier, healthier you.