Four steps to reduce stress and improve immune function
According to the results of the 2020 Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association, 55 percent of Americans are stressed daily.
What’s worse is that many of us end up getting stuck in a chronic stress mode and our immune system suffers the consequences.
Is this you? Do you feel stuck in chronic stress?
If so, you may be asking yourself: “How did I get here and what do I do about it?”
Let’s start with how we get here
Stress is sneaky and can be a little stealth-like. Maybe you are living in an unending loop of go-go-go, or the increased cost of living is feeling more than you can handle financially, or maybe you are facing inescapable debt, or you are in a demanding job you hate, or you have lost a loved one and the loneliness is overwhelming you, or you are facing a jam-packed kids’ schedule filled with activities that has you wondering if you are coming or going, or of course there is the stress of “that thing” that we all faced in early 2020.
Modern society certainly presents plenty of little stressors (and big ones, too) that we encounter daily. Many of these stressors are ones that we tend to push down and just carry on. When we do push these stressors down day after day, week after week, month after month, they pile up and can create a situation where your body has gone from dealing with an acute stress situation to being stuck in chronic stress mode. Chronic stress mode can create systemic inflammation in your body and is harmful to your digestion, your immune system and to your overall health.
So…what to do about it?
There are many things you can do about it, but let’s start with these 4. Science has shown these can help lower stress levels, improve your immune system and keep you healthy. And they are fun to do. (I think we need more fun and joy in our lives, don’t you?)
1. Belly laughter: Laughter will boost your immune system and improve your mood. According to Psychology Today, the average four-year-old laughs around 300 times a day, while the average 40-year-old only laughs four times a day. It’s time we reconnect with our inner giggly four-year-old child; our health depends on it!
2. Snuggle: Snuggling with humans or pets can be a great way to handle stress. When we snuggle with someone or something we love, our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that has calming and bonding effects. Oxytocin helps to reduce stress and anxiety, and it can help to improve heart health and gut function. In addition, snuggling can help to regulate our breathing and heart rate, which can further promote relaxation. One study found that people who spent 15 minutes cuddling with their pets had lower heart rates and blood pressure than those who did not cuddle.
3. Eat real food: The average human eats about 80,000 meals in a lifetime. That’s a lot of opportunities to add to your health or add to dis-ease in the body. Every bite we take is either helping or hurting our health.
To support your health and immune system, here are 5 foods to add to your diet and 4 foods that the experts say can make living healthy more challenging so they should be reduced or eliminated from your diet.
Foods to eat more of:
- LENTILS AND BEANS
- HERBS AND SPICES
- WILD FOODS, LIKE WILD BLUEBERRIES
Foods that can make living a healthy life more challenging:
- VEGETABLE OILS
- ALL PROCESSED FOODSTUFFS
4. Be the boss of your own health: In addition to bringing more laughter, snuggles and real food into our lives, we must take responsibility for our health. It will reduce your stress and improve your health. We have to become the boss of our own health and sometimes that means you need to become a badass health boss. Yep, I said it. To protect your health, you must become courageous, strong and kind of a badass health boss.
Start taking a starring role in your own health. Stop following your friends off the cliff of eating bad food. Just say no. Stop filling your schedules to the max. Just say no. Start using your intuition, your brain, and what feels right when making health choices, including what drugs to take and what drugs to avoid. Sometimes that means just saying no. Start asking your doctors more questions. Make sure you understand the pros and cons of each decision for your own health. This is part of what it means to be a badass boss of your own health.
We can all make a difference in our stress levels by first becoming aware of the impact stress can have on our health and immune system, and then start making diet and lifestyle changes that support feeling better and living the life you wish to live.
Make your health a priority every day and in every choice. This is within your circle of influence and these small decisions will add up to better health. Do it as if your life depends on it, because it does.
Let me know how I can help you.
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Stress in America™ 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis. American Psychological Association. Apa.org.
Gerloff , P. (n.d.). “You’re not laughing enough, and that’s no joke.” Psychology Today. psychologytoday.com.
Gordon, A., et al. “The effects of pet ownership on cardiovascular risk factors in older adults.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 57.1 (2009): 126-133.
Williams, Anthony. (2016) Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods. Carlsbad: Hay House.
Menichetti J, Libreri C, Lozza E, Graffigna G. “Giving patients a starring role in their own care: a bibliometric analysis of the on-going literature debate.” Health Expert. 2016 Jun;19(3):516-26. doi: 10.1111/hex.12299. Epub 2014 Nov 4. PMID: 25369557; PMCID: PMC5055237.