Perhaps you have noticed that you tend to get sick more frequently when you are stressed out? Scientists have seen this connection for quite a long time, but until recently they could not explain it. While a huge project at work or the loss of a loved one is not likely to give you the flu, it may reduce the performance of your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the flu and other ailments.
It might surprise you, but short term anxiety really boosts the immune system. Increased immune functioning is related to the “fight or flight” response linked to short term stress you know will end. This is because our body is still trying to accommodate to beat the stressor instead of simply allowing the stress bear down. The issue with this is that a vast majority of our stress is persistent during an extended time period. Long term stress is what actually reduces our immune function.
The worst sort of stress is not just long term, but anxiety we believe we can not control or see an end to. For instance, while meeting a deadline at work can cause a reduction in our immune function; it is probably not as bad as anxiety brought on by a debilitating injury. When we believe the stressor is beyond our control and could never stop, our entire body feels it can not cope with the strain and it starts to take its toll. This sort of stress causes a fall in just about all immune functioning.
For routine, long term stressors, the reduction in immune function becomes greater with time. This means even if you believe you’re in a position of control, long term stress like a high power job, can develop and slowly decrease your disease fighting skills. Another important element to consider when looking at the immune system and stress is the reduction in immune system functioning is greater for individuals that are older or already sick.
This is likely why elderly people that are severely injured or have recently lost a loved one are a lot more likely to die within a year than those who have not had these conditions. You might think,”Well, I’ll drop my anxiety level and I’ll be fine”. However, studies have show that traumatic events can stick with us and influence our immune system long after the stressor is gone. If a person was in an accident, was assaulted, or experienced a traumatic loss, they could show diminished immunities years later.
The best way to improve immunities in this instance is to undergo treatment for the injury. Besides causing a reduction in immune system functioning, anxiety can make you more vulnerable to additional long term diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. If you would like to keep a healthy lifestyle you should include actions and a proper diet that encourage a less stressful lifestyle.