woman looking stressed

Stress- as powerful risk factor for chronic illness

I love analogies. They make sometimes complicated information understandable.  So, let me describe the effects of stress on our immune system and ultimately our health to that of a comet.

First, a comet appears as a ball of bright ice with a subtle trailing tail. The most intense light is illuminated from the ball and becomes less so as the tail extends into blackness.  To me, the ball of intense light represents our current, conscious level of stress, its brightness and size reflective of the magnitude of the perceived events around us.  These stressors may include preparing for the Holidays, trying to meet end-of-year deadlines, financial struggles, relationship problems, or even the death of a loved one.

The comet’s tail is subtle.  It follows like a shadow and eventually disappears.  The tail represents the subconscious effects of this stress, particularly chronic stress, on our physical, mental, and emotional health.  These effects will be more prevalent closer to the source of stress and typically diminish over time.

The effects of stress are many and the immune system is not an exception.  During immediate stress, hormones like cortisol and neurotransmitters called catecholamines are briefly secreted in anticipation of injury.  In our analogy, this response is occurring within the bright shining ball and once the event ceases the brightness diminishes and so do the secretion of these chemicals. However, in states of chronic stress, these hormones, like the comet’s tail, are continually present and persist beyond their evolutionary purpose.  They continue to suppress our immune system making us more susceptible to disease and illness.

So, keeping our stress in check is important for many reasons including the promotion of a healthy immune system.  While this sounds easier said than done, here are some tips to try:

Practice Stress Management Techniques. Certain techniques, like journaling, yoga and even laughter have all been found to increase immunity. By practicing stress-reducing activities, you can keep your body from going into chronic stress mode, maintaining increased health and wellness

Take Care of Your Body. Eat a healthy healthy diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly to keep your body running smoothly. Taking better care of your body will keep it functioning properly and increase your ability to fight off the latest bug that’s being passed around.

Maintain a Supportive Network. Social support boosts immunity and helps you manage stress in your life, both of which will keep you healthier. By keeping several healthy relationships in your life, you’ll have friends to help you through the difficult times and increase your enjoyment of the good times

Maintain Balance in Your Life.  Become proficient at saying no to requests that aren’t in line with your priorities. Stay true to your passions and follow your heart.

Remember that its within your power to influence the brightness of your comet and length if its tail.

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