If you’re like us, you have a lot of responsibilities, and that can be stressful. You’re constantly juggling your family's needs, work, and the household. But how does this stress impact your body, and more importantly, how does stress affect the immune system?
Stress isn’t just psychological—stress and the immune system go hand in hand. A high-stress lifestyle can weaken your immune system and increase your likelihood of getting sick. Learn more about how stress affects your immune system and what you can do to combat its effects.
What Is the Immune System?
The immune system is your body’s defense system. It protects you from antigens, foreign substances such as bacteria, cancer cells, and viruses that trigger an immune response.
What Is an Immune Response?
When your body senses an antigen, your immune system immediately responds by producing more white blood cells. There are two types of white blood cells: T cells and B cells. B cells are important because they produce antibodies, which fight off and attack invading antigens.
T cells defend you in a different way. They identify infected cells in your body and destroy them to prevent the spread of infection.
What Is a Stress Response? How Does It Work?
It’s easy to tell when you’re stressed. You feel tense, your heart pounds, but what’s actually going on inside your body?
Stress is a hormonal response to stimuli that your body perceives as demanding or challenging. Stress can be both a benefit and a setback. It can help you get things done quickly, but can also make you feel overwhelmed. When your body experiences stress, it releases hormones known as corticosteroids, which make your body more alert and ready for action.
It’s also important to be aware of what type of stress you’re experiencing. There are two different types of stress: acute stress and chronic stress.
Acute stress is short-lived. It’s a very intense feeling, but it only lasts for a few minutes or even just seconds. Acute stress is useful for dealing with dangerous situations. Have you ever had to suddenly swerve your car to avoid hitting someone? The feeling you experienced was acute stress.
Chronic stress is a different story. It’s less intense than acute stress, but lasts much longer, from weeks to months. There are some clear issues that can cause chronic stress. If you’re unhappy or dealing with difficult events in your life such as a divorce or a health problem, you can suffer from chronic stress.
Taking on too many responsibilities can also cause chronic stress. That’s why as a parent struggling to juggle home life and work, chronic stress can easily creep into your life. It’s easy to ignore it as it’s less noticeable than acute stress and can just seem like a regular part of your life. But dealing with continual stress is bad for your body and can eventually cause you to develop health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and depression.
Stress and the Immune System: How Are They Connected?
By this point, you’re probably wondering, how does stress affect the immune system? When your body is fighting off an invading substance, it needs to produce as many white blood cells as possible. The stress hormones inhibit the number of white blood cells your body can produce, making you more susceptible to infections.
The stress-immune system relationship also has an indirect connection that many people don’t realize is affecting them. Stress can lead you to develop unhealthy habits such as consuming excessive alcohol and smoking. It can even cause insomnia. All of these unhealthy stress-related habits can be detrimental to the health of your immune system.
What Can You Do to Relieve Stress?
Now that we’ve identified stress as a problem, here are some tips to help you achieve a better stress-immune system balance.
Exercising is a healthy way to blow off steam and relieve stress. It also has a positive impact on your immune system. Your blood circulates faster when you exercise, so your white blood cells are able to circulate your body more easily and catch antigens quicker.
Consume Less Caffeine
Caffeine is fine in moderation, but in excess, it can raise your stress levels and cause you to feel anxious. If you feel that caffeine has this effect on you, consider drinking decaf or finding uncaffeinated substitutes to get you through the workday.
Enjoy a Relaxing Scent
If certain scents relax you, try to expose yourself to that smell when you’re feeling stressed. For example, many people enjoy floral scents, while others may prefer smells of baking. Burning a candle or using aromatherapy diffusers is an easy way to bring soothing scents into your home.
Even if you’re busy, socializing is important and can help you relax. If you’re feeling overworked, take some time off to enjoy yourself and hang out with your kids or friends. You’ll produce more oxytocin, a chemical in your brain that naturally relieves stress and helps you feel happier. Even if socializing takes time during your busy day, it can help you feel less stressed and consequently help you work more productively and get more done.
Set Aside Relaxation Time
Again, if you’re overworked, you’ll only feel more stressed, which can make you less productive and perpetuate a bad cycle. Instead of working all the time or focusing only on your kids, schedule some time each week to do solitary activities that you enjoy. De-stressing and taking time for yourself will help you focus better and be more productive.
Take Time to Unwind
After a crazy day with the kids, it can be tempting to just flop into bed. Create an evening routine to relax before bed. You can watch our 10 min evening routine created by Ashley, a yoga mom who shares how she relaxes at the end of the day. Simply take a bath or have a glass of wine while looking at the stars—whatever makes you feel good and helps you relax.
How Can Essential Oils Boost Your Immune System?
In addition to implementing all of the tips above, taking essential oils in the form of organic, all-natural supplements is an easy way to boost you and your kids’ immune systems.
Essential oils improve your immune system by acting as antimicrobials. This means that they help your body fight off foreign substances like bacteria or fungi. Essential oils have different properties, so if you want to start taking them, we recommend you research these properties to determine which oils would work best for you.
To give you a head start, here are a few essential oils and their benefits.
Lemon is known for its invaluable antibacterial properties and is also an antioxidant. It helps keep your liver healthy, which has a positive impact on your immune system. Lemon is also known to energize the body to keep you alert and feeling fresh.
Tea tree oil has both antiviral and antifungal properties. Taking tea tree oil acts as an immunostimulant: It stimulates the immune system and makes it easier for your body to fight off sickness.
Rosemary is also great for stress and the immune system. In particular, it’s a great way to fight off respiratory-related diseases. One thing to note about rosemary, however, is that it’s quite strong, so it should be used in moderation.
Lavender is a particularly popular essential oil, for good reason. Lavender acts as a stress-reducing agent and contains antioxidant properties. It can help combat the effects of insomnia and other sleep-related problems, indirectly boosting the immune system by treating these other issues. Besides, it smells wonderful!
Consider implementing some of these tips the next time you’re experiencing stress, and your immune system will thank you. Remember that experiencing constant stress, though a normal part of life, isn’t necessary, nor is it incurable. Check out how to relieve stress at home with aromatherapy.
Try Teramune Today
Click here to learn other health tips and to read more about essential oils, then browse our collection of edible essential oils designed to boost your immune system. All of Teramune’s products are certified organic, vegan, non-GMO, and sourced from the highest quality essential oils so you and your loved ones can start living your healthiest life.