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When it comes to stress, balance is the key. Too little makes us bored and lazy; too much leads to anxiety and can suppress the immune system.

Stress isn’t just unpleasant things like being laid off or going through a divorce, or coping with other difficult situations. It is also exciting things like visiting a new country, having a baby, starting a new job, or getting married.

If you’ve been laid low by a bad cold after the holidays, you’ve already discovered that even the fun kind of stress can lower your immunity.

Why is this?

Stress triggers the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. In short spurts, cortisol can boost your immunity by limiting inflammation. But if you experience continued stress over time, your bloodstream becomes infused with a steady onslaught of cortisol and that alters the immune system response, suppressing its ability to protect you from organisms that cause illness and disease. Too much cortisol decreases the body’s white blood cells. Particularly concerning is the reduction of the cells called “killer T cells” that your body needs to attack and dispose of virus-infected and cancerous cells.

A number of serious health issues can be traced to long-term stress exposure. The National Institutes of Health says continued strain on your body from routine stress is often the hardest to detect but could lead to serious health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, insomnia and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

It’s been said that “stress kills.” It’s hard to determine the full extent of stress-related deaths, but according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the workplace is the number-one cause of life stress. The American Institute of Stress reports 120,000 people die every year as a direct result of work-related stress, and the health care costs due to work-related stress total an average of $190 billion a year.

So, how do you manage stress?

Eating Well

For starters, eating well is very important – that means eating a balanced diet of protein, vegetables, fruits, complex carbohydrates and some fat. Avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates (white bread, candy, pastries, etc.,) as they turn into sugar which suppresses the immune system. In fact, every time you consume sugar in any form, it compromises your immune system for 6 hours. That means if you eat sugar with breakfast, lunch and dinner, your immune system is compromised for the entire day and would only be functioning optimally for a few hours in the early morning which is not enough to protect you from health problems.

Invest in Supplements

Invest in supplements that are specifically designed to boost your immune system to compensate for the effects of being under stress. This is particularly important for older people who are more prone to stress-related immune system changes. Since many of our food sources today don’t provide us with adequate nutrition, can also contain toxins, and since many people have poor gut health, which limits the nutrition the body absorbs, such supplements help make up for what’s missing.

Exercise regularly

That could mean walking, running, swimming, yoga, biking or working out with weights. Here’s a great way to start exercising regularly: walk for 20 minutes in any direction from your home, and then walk back home. Build up to doing that 4 times per week. After that, increase the amount of time you walk. If you can’t start with 20 minutes, then start with 10 minutes out and 10 minutes back. Do whatever you can start with and build up from there. Exercising has a host of health benefits, including reducing stress.

Get consistent good quality sleep

If you struggle with insomnia, follow these steps to improve your quality of sleep:

1)            Keep a consistent sleep schedule

2)            Limit drinking liquids, especially alcohol, close to bedtime

3)            Turn electronic devices off before you go to sleep

4)            Make your sleep environment work for you, whether that means using a weighted blanket, a fan, a white noise machine, aromatherapy, or special lighting

5)            Only go to bed when you are tired

6)            Limit napping.

Limit Stressful Situations

Try to limit situations you find stressful or have a strategy in place to handle situations you know may be stressful for you. In addition:

1)            Recognize the people in your life who make you feel stressed and limit your interaction with them as much as possible.

2)            If you find yourself getting stressed when on social media, take a break from it.

3)            Make time for activities you really enjoy.

If you are interested in finding out more about natural ingredients that may help with stress, a helpful resource is the website www.PubMed.gov. This website contains thousands of clinical papers so you can research scientific results for supplement ingredients.

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