Sam Edwards/Getty Images As various colds and strains of the flu are passed around schools, offices and homes across America, you may be wond
As various colds and strains of the flu are passed around schools, offices and homes across America, you may be wondering what you can do to stay healthy. We’ve all heard recommendations to get flu shots, bundle up if it’s cold outside, and the like, but your mom and your doctor may have neglected to tell you about an important precaution you can take to avoid getting sick: practice your stress management skills!
The effects of stress on immune system functioning and overall level of wellness have been studied and well-documented, and if you're worried about your health, stress levels should be monitored closely! Stress affects your overall wellness level and susceptibility to infection in two important ways:
- Weakened Immune System – Chronic stress can raise cortisol levels and weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to colds and the flu, as well as more serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.
- Unhealthy Choices – When we’re under stress, health may suffer because we don’t always make other healthy lifestyle choices like getting enough sleep, exercise and healthy food in our diet, which also makes us more likely to become ill.
Steps Toward Wellness
To protect your health, stress should be kept to a minimum and other precautions should also be taken. To increase your odds of wellness, especially during flu season, here are some important steps you can take:
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. And, if you do get sick, a generally healthy body can bounce back from illness much more quickly so you’ll be less miserable while you’re ill, and heal sooner.
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, helping everyone stay healthy and enjoy life more.
Stay Organized and Maintain Balance in Your Life.
Keep your home uncluttered. Become proficient at saying no to requests that aren’t in line with your priorities. Staying organized and balanced will help you keep from overtaxing yourself, and can help reduce the level of stress you experience in your life, helping you stay healthier in the long run.
Practical Tips To Remember
As always, don’t forget to take the common sense health precautions that mom and the doc have been telling you for years:
Wash Your Hands
Do it frequently, and especially before meals.
This will keep germs from being passed to your face, so your immune system won’t even have to worry about fighting them. You can also use antibacterial hand lotion to serve the same purpose when you’re out and about.
Take Vitamin C and Drink Plenty of Water.
The vitamin C can strengthen your immune system and the water can help flush out toxins. This increases proper functioning of your immune system and helps you fight disease more easily.
Avoid People Who Are Sick.
If members of your family are ill, in addition to washing your hands and avoiding direct contact, it’s a good idea to spray disinfectant spray on all door handles, light switches, phones and other areas of the house that are touched often and may contain germs.
A little prevention can go a long way in keeping you healthy. While I can’t promise that you’ll never be sick again, following these wellness suggestions for living a low-stress, healthy lifestyle can have a very positive impact on your health and wellness levels.
Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, and Gregory E. Miller, Ph.D. “Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry”. University of British Columbia; Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 130, No. 4.