Stress and The Immune System
By Wilma Grobbelaar
South African BodyTalk Association
Stress management has never been as important as now. During the present Covid-19 Pandemic, the world finds itself immersed in a volcano of stress, increasing uncertainty in the future and threatening the health and livelihoods of every person on the planet.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting us. When working efficiently, it helps us to; stay focused, energised, and alert. Solve problems effectively and literally, save our lives in emergency situations. However, genetically our bodies can only manage the stress that lasts for seconds.
Unmanaged, long term or chronic stress may:
· Play havoc with the immune system
· Lead to existential anxiety with fear of death/ loss
· Contribute to feelings of helplessness
· Cause depression
· Lead to heart disease
· Contribute to strokes
· Affect and create digestive system disorders.
Responses to stressors are individual experiences that show up differently for each. According to scientists, stress has 3 components that must happen simultaneously. The measureable physical response, e.g., breathing problems, sweating, cold hands, not being able to speak, dry mouth, pale skin, etc. observed by an outsider. This over-reaction typically happens to an everyday problem.
Psychological, desire to avoid the situation:
· Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
Emotional, a loss of control:
· Learned helplessness leading to depression.
Changed behaviour patterns:
· Stress at home shows up at school.
· Stress at work due to expectations of the employee and employer
The immune system is your bodyguard, your personal army allowing continuous surveillance of energy frequencies that are not in coherence with that of your own body’s frequencies. A healthy immune system will detect and correct the internal environment to neutralise the effect of whatever has entered the system e.g., microbe, allergen, toxin.
When we sense danger/ threat- whether it is real or imagined- the body’s defences, known as the fight-or-flight reaction, or the stress response, kicks in. When this happens, the hypothalamus signals the adrenals to dump loads of adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, preparing the body handle the threat.
During long term or chronic stress the following happens:
The number of white blood cells decreases. There is an increase of antibodies against your own body’s healthy cells causing autoimmune diseases, such as: asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Polymyalgia rhuematica, ankylosing spondylitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. With an already comprised and over-reactive immune system, these individuals stand a bigger chance of developing a cytokine storm, which with viral infections such as the flu or Covid-19, can cause hyper inflammation. This is an acute situation that can lead to death, as seen during the pandemic. Chronically stressed individuals are 3 times more likely to suffer from frequent colds.
What are the stressors that are threatening the population today?
We can list many. However, presently, Covid-19 is the biggest threat to our world. Apart from the loss of life, mental health is the primary long-term concern over the next 5 years. It is estimated that in Australia, suicide will increase by 50% or 1500 per year due to the economic devastation and rise in unemployment caused by the lockdown measures that had to be instituted. This is a vicious cycle, and one could ask the question, does stress cause illness, or is illness making one more prone to stress? I believe they are both relevant, as both will have devastating effects on the immune system.
What is possible in the management of stress and in protecting you immune system?
BodyTalk is a Natural Healthcare that understands the psychology of the body and how it affects your health. It allows the natural healing potential of the body to heal again on a physical, emotional, and mental level.
Practitioners identify the story that is playing out in your life that is relevant to what you are experiencing. For example, at present, people are experiencing the loss of one or several aspects of livelihood.
Becoming aware of the story, emotions, and feelings you are experiencing, as a result of the environmental factors in your life, the real underlying causes of stress can be balanced.
BodyTalk sessions can help you respond to your environmental stress factors rather than overreact to them. It will calm the brain and nervous system, allowing you to experience the events more healthily. As soon as we feel threatened, the ego goes into flight or fight, creating a cascade of events, affecting your immune system negatively. When your brain is in a state of calm with in a stressful environment, it becomes open to noticing possibilities and solutions, to stay focused, and to become creative in actions and behaviour.
Receiving regular BodyTalk sessions defuses conflict in promoting interpersonal, work, sport, and community relationships in a positive way.
What could you do to stimulate your immune system?
· Good nutrition
· Stillness/ Meditation
· BodyTalk sessions
· Attending the one-day BodyTalk Access class, balancing your body energies in a general way and using techniques daily.