Chronic stress has a a major impact on our immune health, by suppressing protective immune responses and/or exacerbating injury causing immune responses.
If you're feeling overwhelmed and stressed, finding ways to calm and ease the mind and body are essential. I've used the following tools to quickly go from an 8 out of 10 level of anxiousness, down to a 4 or 5 out of 10. They are all free and easily accessed online.
Before you try them, rate your level of stress and anxious feelings. Then take a moment to reevaluate after. You might be pleasantly surprised.
1. Emotional freedom technique (EFT) and Brad Yates You Tube Videos
Emotional Freedom Technique is based on acupuncture and the meridian or energy pathways. It is also known as "tapping" since it requires physically tapping eight acupressure (or meridian) points on the face and upper body, while verbalizing a series of statements.
Although it might sound little weird, it is an evidence based tool and can be used for wide variety of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
My favourite You Tube videos which take you through an EFT session are by Brad Yates.
Each video is anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes long and are totally free.
For an intro to tapping see this video. I'd suggest watching this first.
Here are a few favourites for you to try...
2. Meditation apps like Headspace and Smiling Mind
One of the most common reasons people try meditation is to reduce stress. Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol can produce many harmful effects if prolonged. It can increase inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines, disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking.
Studies have shown meditation can:
Reduce stress levels.
Reduce the inflammation response caused by stress
Improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and fibromyalgia.
Reduce anxiety levels.
Promote emotional well-being.
Lengthen attention span.
There are a variety of different meditation strategies, and a huge range of free tools can be found on the internet. Anyone can follow along to a guided meditation and receive the benefit. It doesn't need to be for 1 hour, even just 5 to 10 minutes could help.
Combine meditation with a yoga class for physical activity and additional immune support. Yoga with Adriene is a great free resource that can be found on You Tube. She offers both meditation and yoga sessions.
3. Breathing techniques
When stressed our breathing becomes shallow and fast which activates the sympathetic "fight or flight" nervous system. In order to activate the parasympathetic "rest and digest" nervous system we need to change the rate and pattern of our breathing.
For some great breathing exercises check out these You Tube videos:
Calm | Breathe Bubbles (52 secs - includes holds)
Stop Anxiety | 4-7-8 Calm Breathing Guide (10 minutes)
The CALM app can also be very helpful.
Remember to breath in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. Once you've got the hang of it, it's a great tool to use before bed or if you wake in the night to calm your mind.
4. Sing or Listen to Music
Music is another way we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and trigger relaxation and calm.
Otherwise, pick your favourite songs and create your own happy playlist. Choose songs that really get your foot tapping!
If you can sing along to them, even better. Singing is a form of guided breathing, which demands a slower than normal respiration, which may in turn affect heart activity. It also stimulates the vocal cords and muscles at the back of the throat, which are innervated by a vital parasympathetic nerve called the vagus nerve.
Balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system using these techniques is needed for healthy body responses. Those with poor vagal parasympathetic responses often have a decreased heart rate variability (HRV). Decreased HRV is associated with a wide range of ill health conditions including a higher risk of early death!
So, I hope these tools help you to ease any anxious feelings you may be experiencing at this time. The benefits are huge!
Chronic stress & its impact on our immune system
Emotional Freedom Technique
See this article for a list of references.