Stress and the Immune System

Stress and the Immune System

What is stress?

The word stress can refer to a multitude of things, both physical and psychological.

#physical stressors:

Injury

Disease

Surgery

Undernourishment

Dehydration

Extremes of temperature (in either direction)

#psychological stress

The state that arises when an individual perceives that the demands placed upon them exceed or even simply threaten to exceed, their capacity to cope. This might simply be because of unhealthy relationships at work (e.g. nasty boss or bullying colleagues) or at home, a person’s financial circumstances or the kids are playing up.

The purpose of the stress response is to allow us to cope swiftly and effectively in response to life-threatening situations. Biologically our system switches from long term to short term survival priorities.

Biological resources are then channelled to systems that require them when responding to the challenge.

The stress response is delivered by the sympathetic nervous system and also by a system known as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (the HPA axis).

Within 20-30 seconds of being confronted by a stressor the sympathetic nervous system is activated. And once upon a time this was totally appropriate when you were faced with a sabre toothed tiger but it is not the best response to the pressures of day to day life. This activation will subside within one hour of the stressor going away.

On the other hand the HPA axis is much slower and can take from minutes to hours to respond with its effects lasting for days or weeks.

This HPA axis is responsible for the release of the stress hormone cortisol, whose chief purpose is to convert the body’s energy stores into a form that is ready for immediate use.

However cortisol will alter the disruption of and movement of white blood cells throughout the body, block the production of new lymphocytes, cause the destruction of other lymphocytes and suppress the production of cytokines. Lymphocytes and cytokines amongst others are essential for a well balanced immune system which given the increasing prevalence of Covid-19 is essential for us all.

So are you stressed? Download the test below and find out.

Download Here

Please get in touch to find out how you can lower your stress and feel better. charles@smashyouranxiety.com

Leave a Reply