Holiday Stress and Your Immune System

Written By Tracy & Keim Chiropractic LLC on December 10, 2019

woman stressed over holidays

If you think your stress is all in your head—think again. Stress affects your physical state just as much as your mental and emotional health. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the influence of stress in your life, even during the hectic holiday season. In this article, we’ll cover the ways in which stress can weaken your immune system, and offer suggestions for managing stress—especially during the busy holidays.

How Stress Affects Immune Function

Although we experience stress as an emotion, stress produces the hormone corticosteroid, which lowers the number of lymphocytes in your blood. Lymphocytes are a crucial part of your immune system. They are responsible for fighting off and destroying invading viruses and bacteria that enter your body. When the number of lymphocytes is reduced, viruses and bacteria can slip under the radar. This can result in illnesses like the cold and flu, symptoms such as headaches, and even chronic disease such as diabetes, asthma, ulcers, and heart and digestive problems, since stress also raises blood pressure and increases cholesterol.

Stress can also affect the immune system indirectly when people develop unhealthy coping habits, such as smoking, drinking, and neglecting proper diet, exercise, and sleep. This is why it’s so important to learn how to manage stress in healthy ways—especially during the holidays, when stress levels often skyrocket.

Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

Exercise – Exercise helps to ward off the physical effects of stress and promote a sense of well-being. A quick run or a yoga session boosts brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, helping you to feel happier. Exercise also increases levels of the neurotransmitter anandamide, which blocks feelings of pain and depression.
Mindfulness, meditation, and breathing – Taking time to live in the moment and focus on your breathing can help you to put things into perspective, lower your blood pressure, and reset your heart rate to a more natural pace. When you wake up, before you go to sleep, or whenever you’re feeling stressed, take time out to reconnect with yourself and calm your mind and body. Lavender oil can also help to promote relaxation, and some people find it helpful to use this calming essential oil during their meditation sessions.

Sleep – It can be hard to sleep well when you’re feeling stressed, but getting your eight hours is absolutely necessary to give your body the strength it needs to cope with stressful situations. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, you may need to adjust your environment to make sure it’s conducive to a restful night. Use heavy curtains or a sleep mask so that you’re in complete darkness once you’re in bed. Keep a consistent bedtime and wakeup schedule. Avoid bright lights or light from electronic devices after sunset. If a warm bath, candlelight, or cup of herbal tea helps you relax, try to incorporate that into your bedtime routine. You can also put a drop of lavender oil on you pillowcase, or listen to soothing music or nature sounds while you drift off.

Get enough Vitamin D – Vitamin D helps your body produce serotonin, a natural mood-booster. Sunshine is a natural source of Vitamin D, but during the dark winter months, it’s especially important to give your body a little extra help in the form of supplements. Other supplements to help you cope with holiday stress include magnesium (which promotes sleep and relaxation), Vitamin B12 (a stress-reliever that also increases alertness), and ashwagandha (which has long been used in traditional Indian medicine to lower stress and boost energy).

Eat right – The holidays may be the hardest time to try eating right, but the results are worth it. Interestingly, more serotonin is located in your intestines than in your brain, so the state of your digestive system can have a big impact on your stress and anxiety. Incorporate fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and natto on a regular basis, or, if you don’t care for fermented foods, take a probiotic supplement each day. Take care to also limit your intake of processed foods, sugar, and alcohol and caffeine.

Enjoy Yourself – One of the most important things you can do to have a relaxed and happy holiday season is to participate in activities you enjoy, stay positive, and connect with the people you love. Remember, it’s okay to set limits, prioritize yourself, and choose your favorite way to celebrate.

By taking care of your mind and body, you can manage stress effectively, strengthen your immune system, and have a healthy and happy holiday season.



Posted In: Chiropractic Boost Immune System Nutrition Stress Relief