Last week we talked about some of the ways anxiety is popping up in our lives with the recent global events and some ways to manage anxiety while social distancing. Now let’s explore why managing all of this is so important. 

You’ve probably heard people say that stress is bad for your health and can even shorten your lifespan. But recently there’s a lot of talk about how anxiety and stress can be hard on the immune system. Maybe you’ve wondered if there’s any truth to that, and if so, what can you do to stay healthy despite all the new stressors in this uncharted territory?

Can stress and anxiety lower your immune response?

The short answer: yes.

We should mention that there is a difference between stress and anxiety– stress is the response to outside pressures or threats. It’s generally thought of as short term, although in today’s world a lot of people find themselves in prolonged stressful situations. Anxiety is a sustained, longer term reaction that can be triggered by stress.

Anxiety is a normal part of life, and almost everyone experiences it at sometime or another. It starts with anticipation or persistent thoughts that cause your heart rate to increase and boost blood flow to your brain. 

On a temporary basis stress can be helpful, getting you prepared for an extreme or high pressure event. But when stress symptoms become persistent, making their way into your daily life they can turn into anxiety, or even an anxiety disorder, and have a serious impact on your health. 

In this post, we’re using both terms because they can have similar effects on the immune system.

Let’s get scientific:

There are two types of white blood cells that help fight off infections: lymphocytes and phagocytes. When we experience stress the body produces a hormone called corticosteroid, which lowers the number of lymphocytes in the body, thereby lowering the defenses of the immune system. 

When our stress response is activated for an extended period of time, our body never has a chance to calm down and restore those lymphocytes, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses like the flu. So whether you experience stress due to your job or financial situation, or you’ve developed an anxiety disorder, your immune system doesn’t discriminate.

Don’t stress about stress:

Like we said before, it’s completely normal to have these responses (especially in these unprecedented times). Luckily there are lots of things that you can do right now, in your own home, to give yourself a break. Here are our favorites:

  • BREATHE! 

One of the best things you can do when you’re feeling your heart rate go up or find your thoughts are racing is to engage in deep breathing. We love this list of breathing exercises: https://www.healthline.com/health/breathing-exercise 

If you’re more visual, try these graphics that help you inhale and exhale in a peaceful rhythm: https://www.buzzfeed.com/nathanwpyle/mesmerizing-animations-to-help-you-take-a-deep-breath

  • Listen to music

This can be used two ways: crank up some dance tunes and dance out the excess energy, or put on some meditative music or a sound bath to relax. Whatever works for you, music can be a serious ally in the battle against anxiety. 

  • Journal

This can be a hard habit to get into, but it’s well worth it. Try keeping a journal around and writing down everything that’s stressing you out, every worry that’s keeping you up at night. Sometimes seeing everything on paper helps put things into perspective, and you might even be able to make a practical list of solutions on the next page. 

CBD for anxiety:

We’ve had a lot of great feedback from people saying CBD is a great tool for managing their anxiety. If you want to learn more about that, check out last week’s post where we discuss tips for using CBD for anxiety as well as ideas we love to stay sane during social distancing. 

Sources:

https://www.psycom.net/stress-vs-anxiety-difference

https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html

https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/effects-on-body#3

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