In the past few years, we have all had a stark reminder of just how important our immune system can be. This aspect of our body is vital for us to heal our wounds and to protect ourselves from disease, and constant stress can weaken it over time, researchers say.
Stress is defined as pressure or tension exerted on a material object, or a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse circumstances. While the first is actually to define stress on a material object, for some reason, when I read it, I felt I resonated with it more. With that being said, you get the idea regardless – stress is when situations, circumstances, and duties become so much, that their weight begins to crush us.
And while stress is often thought of as a mental condition, stress impacts the physical body, including our immune system.
In the 1980’s a psychologist named Janice Kiecold-Glaser, Ph.D., and immunologist Ronald Glaser, Ph. D, of the Ohio State University College of Medicine became intrigued after seeing studies that observed the link between stress and infection. During the early 80’s and into the early ’90s, they studied students to observe the same links.
Among many things, they found that the students’ immunity decreased by the year around the time of their three-day exams. Those who took the three-day exams had lower killer cells to fight off infection and almost stopped producing immunity-boosting gamma interferon and infection-fighting T-cells.
Such research opened the flood-gates for similar research.
By 2004, researchers Suzanne Segerstrom, Ph.D. of the University of Kentucky, and Gregory Miller, Ph.D., from the University of British Columbia had around 300 studies on stress and health to look over. In their analysis, they found many patterns of intrigue.
When stressed for merely a few minutes, there were first responder chemical cues that weakened the immune system. But, during long periods of stress, that lasted days, weeks, or months, many aspects of immunity started to weaken. What they found was that chronic stress caused great damage to our immune system.
According to the National Institute of Stress, 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, and around 33% of people are living with extreme stress.
Any time we are under stress, our brain sends out stress hormones. These hormones are the body’s fight or flight response, and cause our heart to race, our breath to quicken, and our muscles to prepare for action. While it’s designed to protect us, when we are under constant stress, it can strain our body, mind, and soul.
Staying stressed can lead to constant irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, body aches, insomnia, and immunity decline. And in modern times, where these systems are constantly on alert mode, the taxing effects on our immunity can be detrimental to our health.
If you are trying to seek physical health, emotional well-being is a good place to start. Without a healthy mind, our bodies will suffer. And while spiritualists have been shouting this to the rooftops for centuries, now we have physical evidence of the mind-body connection.