The studies have been done. It has been clearly proven that stress has a detrimental effect on your immunity. Your body is geared to make an immediate response to an acute stress such as possible attack. You will have heard about fight or flight which helps you to react if you hear someone downstairs in the middle of the night. Your body is ready to respond if you cut yourself, or become infected with a virus. Platelets rush to the surface to stop blood flow, or you develop a sore throat as your body produces antibodies to fight off infection.
But what happens when you face chronic stress? Psychologists Suzanne Segerstrom, Ph.D., and Gregory Miller, Ph.D. found that “chronic, long-term stress suppresses the immune system. The longer the stress, the more the immune system shifted from the adaptive changes seen in the “fight or flight” response to more negative changes, first at the cellular level and later in broader immune function. The most chronic stressors – stress that seems beyond a person's control or seems endless – resulted in the most global suppression of immunity. Almost all measures of immune system function dropped across the board.”
APA Online, http://www.psychologymatters.org/stressimmune.html reports the study results for the effect of stress on people. One study measuring the effect of stress on students during their 3-day exam time. It was found that their immunity was suppressed by a number of factors. It was also found that those most affected were those students who were lonely, and had small social networks.
The problem with stress is the “fallout” from both your stressors, the consequences of the stress and any ill health that occurs because of your poor immunity. These stress factors can include:
- Overtime at work
- Reduced income as a result of business cutbacks or spouse losing job.
- Loss of home, vehicles through recession.
- Psychological problems, fear, anxiety, because of potential and current major changes.
- Unwell family member.
- Relationship breakdowns.
- Ill health, especially longterm, repeated illnesses, deterioration of health.
The fallout and stress response can include:
- Loss of appetite.
- Poor diet because of cost saving, or buying takeaways to save time.
- Worrying about what might happen.
- Extra costs for medical care.
- Poor, or loss of sleep.
- No family time.
- Problems with children.
- Lifestyle changes.
- Unbalanced life, with focus on problem areas.
- Cannot afford usual social activities.
- Decreased social circle.
- Life affected by external stressors.
- Feelings of being out of control.
If you recognize that you have stress in your life, please take the time to assess your situation now. It is not likely to improve if you keep pushing on. It could get a lot worse. Look at the cause of the stress, and the effects of the stress on you and your family. Talk to your boss, your health professionals, your spouse, your banker and other support people. Change can be scary at times, but if you initiate the changes, you have more control than if it is forced on you. Learning techniques of managing stress will ensure that stress is not managing you.
Remember, you are not alone, and very unlikely to be the first person to face this problem.
Have courage, get support, make a plan.
Have a wonderful day.