Updated: Jun 1, 2020
By Wendy Finkelstein PA-C, owner of Nephesh Enlightened Health and Functional Medicine
Based on current clinical information and expertise, people who suffer from a weakened immune system or serious illness may be at a higher risk of contracting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Although the full scope of the virus remains unknown, it is becoming increasingly evident that the immune system plays a vital role in a person’s chance of survival and recovery.
How Stress Weakens the Immune System When you are stressed, your body begins to increase the production of the main stress hormone, cortisol. You can think of cortisol as your very own built-in alarm system as it helps the body respond to the threats you are facing. Unfortunately, if you are undergoing long-term stress, your levels of cortisol can become elevated and ultimately suppress your immune system. A weakened immune system can leave us more susceptible to infections and serious diseases, such as the coronavirus. It’s important to learn how to manage your stress so that you have a fighting chance against the virus with a strong immune system in hand.
Five Easy Ways to Alleviate Stress Follow my simple tips below to help reduce your stress levels. You’ll become a happier and healthier you during this hectic, unprecedented time. 1. Let’s Get Physical! You don’t have to run to get a runner’s high. Regular exercise and other forms of physical activity can help manage stress by increasing the production of endorphins – your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters. Physical activity also stimulates the release of other essential brain chemicals to regulate your moods such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Try to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either in the morning, during breaks from work or in the evening. 2. Catch More ZZZs Stress and anxiety can make getting a good night’s sleep more difficult. The weight of the coronavirus, the economy, and the world can be too much to bear and keep you awake at night. The stresses may preoccupy your mind about threatening scenarios and trying to find solutions to these problems. This can help elevate your cortisol levels, making falling to sleep an unreachable goal. It is important to try to clear your mind before bed so that you may tackle each day level-headed. To get a full night’s rest, try to implement healthy stress techniques such as reading a book, avoiding caffeine in the late hours, listening to peaceful music and taking a warm bath or shower before bedtime. 3. Be One with Yoga Yoga is considered by many to be one of the oldest techniques of stress management. Studies have shown that tuning your body and mind with compassion and mindfulness enables you to cope with stress and have a positive relationship with it. The methods of classic yoga consist of stretching, controlled breathing, meditation, and physical movements. There are many great health benefits of yoga including increased strength and flexibility, improved blood circulation, reduced muscle tension and decreased cortisol levels. 4. Take Back Your Time With so many things happening right now beyond our control, it’s important to take back our power and manage our time. Time management and stress management can go hand in hand. When you manage your time wisely, you enhance your sense of control and become more sensible and clear-minded. With many of us stuck at home, we have more time than ever before to tackle our goals. Create a list of all the things you need to do and prioritize them. Make the most of self-isolation and get creative! 5. Virtual Happy Hour Anyone? Talking to someone can help distract you from the mounting stress of this pandemic. It can also help relieve some built-up tension by discussing it. We must not let the anxiety that is being caused by this physical distance win. Let’s stay connected! Most businesses, offices, parks and other public places have shut down during this pandemic to support social distancing. Luckily, we are part of a generation where technology has enhanced the ways we are able to connect with others. There are various online platforms available such as Zoom and Google Hangouts. Even a simple phone call can go along way to stay connected with friends, loved ones and co-workers.