Stress seems to have become a constant factor in today’s fast-paced society. If left unchecked, it can wreak havoc upon our health. Learning how to effectively manage stress can mean the difference between being robust and full of life, or becoming susceptible to illness and disease. Stress can weaken the immune system and accelerate the aging process. The ability to relax and rejuvenate promotes wellness, vitality and longevity.
A healthy immune system regulates our body’s healing process and protects it against infections and diseases. When stress compromises our immune function, it can result in colds, flu, fatigue, cardiovascular disorders and premature aging. Stress increases heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, adrenaline, cortisol, free radicals and oxidative damage. This initiates the “fight or flight” response, places undue strain upon the heart and can also increase the feelings of anxiety and depression.
Protecting the immune system is a vital part of living longer, feeling younger and being healthy. Here are five natural, healthy ways to reduce stress, boost your immune system and slow down the hands of time.
1. Walking and Physical Activity
Regular exercise and physical activity strengthens your immune system, cardiovascular system, heart, muscles and bones. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, improves mental functioning, concentration/attention and cognitive performance and lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, cortisol and other stress hormones.
2. Yoga and Stretching.
The slow movements and controlled postures of yoga improves muscle strength, flexibility, range of motion, balance, breathing, blood circulation and promotes mental focus, clarity and calmness. Stretching also reduces mental and physical stress, tension and anxiety, promotes good sleep, lowers blood pressure and slows down your heart rate.
3. Laughter and Humor.
There is truth to the saying that laughter is the best medicine. Laughing reduces stress hormones like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol. It also benefits your immune system by increasing the number and activity of Natural Killer T-cells. These cells act as the first line of defense against viral attacks and damaged cells. Find the humor in things and engage in activities that make you laugh to increase your immune function and disease resistance.
Getting enough sound sleep has a profound impact on your stress levels, immune function and disease resistance. A chronic lack of sleep can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, forgetful, accident-prone, and have difficulty concentrating or coping with life’s daily aggravations. Long-term sleep loss can also result in heart disease, stroke, hypertension, depression, and anxiety. Sleep time is when your body and immune system do most of its repairs and rejuvenation. Strive to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
5. Positive Thinking.
Optimism can counteract the negative impact stress and anxiety has on your immune system and well-being. Often it is how you perceive things that determines if you get overwhelmed, both mentally and physically. Having a positive attitude, finding the good in what life throws your way and looking at the bright side of things enhances your ability to effectively manage stress.