Have you missed work frequently due to the flu or a cold? If so, it could be that stress is the culprit and not that coworker who won’t stay home when he’s sick.
You may think that these illnesses are simply the result of coming in contact with bacteria or viruses, but actually, that might not be the root cause of the problem. What many people do not realize is that stress can disable the body’s immune system and make you more susceptible to these germs in the environment. Stress, especially the unrelenting kind for which there is no relief, can play havoc with your immune system’s ability to fight off microscopic invaders or to operate the way it is supposed to.
Our bodies are programmed to temporarily respond to stress or danger with hormonal changes that are necessary for survival in flight or fight situations. These stress hormones amplify the bodily functions necessary to survive and reduce the function of everything else. Since fighting off bacteria and viruses is not viewed by the body as necessary for escaping a threat, the immune system is one of the body’s features that is disabled during that stress response. Once the stress has passed, this hormonal response is supposed to stop, allowing all bodily functions to resume as normal.
The trouble comes, however, when our brain becomes convinced that we are always in a state of stress and never turns off that corresponding hormonal response. The immune system’s defenses against germs are chronically left in stand-by mode, making us susceptible to numerous illnesses.
It can take some serious effort to reprogram our brain and this response to reduce stress. I have personally found this to be a tremendous challenge for myself, and I empathize with my clients who have struggled with this, sometimes for years. But here’s the good news! Natural wellness offers great hope!
When clients come to me who have been caught in this vortex of stress, I suggest the benefits of regular reflexology and a natural wellness consultation, which when combined are powerful tools for aiding the body’s ability to break free from this cycle and become healthy again.
Relax with Reflexology – The brain is stuck in the stress response. It takes some time and repetition to teach it a new habit of relaxing. One of the primary benefits of reflexology is its ability to induce relaxation. A professional reflexologist can address the specific parts of the body involved in reducing tension – glands, organs, etc. – and will address the whole body, especially focusing on the areas that show signs of stress with malfunction, pain, or tension. Frequent reflexology can break up the stress habit and give the brain a new signal that it’s safe to relax, to turn off the stress response, and to function normally again.
Natural Wellness Consultation – Poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, and other imbalances usually accompany chronic stress. As the body begins to learn to relax again through reflexology, it is going to want to do some repair and maintenance, restoring balance and health. By doing a thorough consultation, those needs can be identified and addressed to facilitate the process through dietary changes, nutritional supplements, and herbs. There are many herbs and nutritional supplements that can support relaxation, stress relief, and proper immune function. Flower essences, homeopathic remedies that are derived from flowers and used to support emotional well-being, can also be an extremely powerful support for restoring emotional balance.
Additionally, there are other things you can do to tell your brain it’s time to turn off the stress response and allow the immune system to do its job:
- Value relaxation and rejuvenation. Our society places far more emphasis on physical activity and fitness then it does quality down time. We need a balance of both. You can’t pour from an empty cup. It is equally as important to relax and rejuvenate yourself as it is to exercise and maintain your fitness.
- Be more flexible. We experience more stress in situations where we become rigid in our thinking. Hence, increasing flexibility will reduce stress, and when we are relaxed and less stressed, we can be more flexible.
- Make time for pleasure every day. Set aside 30 minutes every day for something enjoyable. Take a warm, relaxing bath with Epsom salts and aromatherapy, do a hobby or craft that you love, read a good book, play with your dog. Just make it something that’s fun for you! You may believe that you don’t have time for this, but by taking this time each day to “sharpen your saw,” you’ll be much more productive in less time because of it.
- Think positively. Optimism, gratitude, and positive self-talk are great ways to overcome stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the health benefits that may come from positive thinking are increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physical well-being, better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.
- And finally…LAUGH! It’s free, it’s easy, and it really is the best medicine!