Health starts in the kitchen
Health starts in the kitchen
If you’ve been feeling a cold coming on and aren’t quite sure what’s causing it, consider looking to your stress levels. You might not realize it, but excess stress levels can suppress the function of your immune system, increasing the risk of you getting sick—especially during cold and flu season.1
Highlighted below is an overview of how high levels of stress can contribute to illness, as well as what you can do to keep yourself as relaxed and healthy as possible.
Can Stress Make You Sick?
Stress is the body’s response to a threat—either perceived or actual. Biologically, the stress response is important because it drives the body to take action during important situations. However, excess stress, especially when misplaced to situations that would not usually warrant it, can result in negative health consequences.
Excess stress can result in effects like increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, muscle tension, headaches, and suppressed immune system function.
In fact, a range of studies have demonstrated that individuals who experience high levels of stress are at higher risk of becoming sick with the cold or flu, meaning that keeping stress levels down is a key way of avoiding getting sick—whether that means in the long or the short term.
So, the short answer is, yes. Stress has been linked to suppressing immune system function and therefore resulting in what people usually think of when they think of “getting sick.” And in addition to these more common types of illness, it has been linked to more chronic issues such as high blood pressure, as well as digestive issues or higher risk of developing mental health concerns.
Boost Your Health by Relieving Stress
Modern life is stressful—between a busy work or school schedule and your responsibilities at home, finding time to focus on yourself and relieve your own stress can be difficult. However, remember that just as it’s important to nourish your body with healthy food that will sustain your energy and your health for years to come, it is important to take care of your mental and physical health by managing stress levels.
Some ways to relax include getting regular exercise, listening to great music that you love, practicing yoga or meditation, or even reducing some of your obligations in order to make time for yourself. Think about what you love to do and prioritize the time to do more of that. Just as food is your fuel, the environment and activities that you surround yourself with will fuel your health and your livelihood, so it’s important to keep that environment positive. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
In this final stretch of the year that brings with it the stress of the holiday season and wrapping up everything that you have to do before the start of the new year, remember to take time to take care of yourself—nourish your body with healthy food, get as much sleep as possible, and make time for relaxation to reduce stress levels and your chances of getting sick.