In recent weeks we have been informed of the hygienic measures and precautions that we must take to prevent infection (frequent hand washing, social distancing, etc.). But is there anything else we can do?
Taking care of our immune system will be key to protect ourselves from infection and, in case of contagion, resolve it as quickly and effectively as possible.
In this article we will review some strategies to deal with stress and get a healthy and effective immune system.
We have known for a long time that stress weakens the immune system as much or more than almost any other factor. In alarming situations, our body diverts energy to the muscles and brain, and mobilizes the body for action, which drastically reduces the energy used to fight diseases, making us more vulnerable to all kinds of infections
In prolonged periods of stress, blood levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, can be increased and produce a series of effects that can negatively impact the immune response. Increased cortisol levels can cause, among others, a decrease in phagocytosis and leukocyte migration, inhibition of the immune system, and reduced multiplication of lymphocytes, specifically of T lymphocytes, which are specialized immune cells that act as mediators. of the cellular immune response. As a result, there is a significant decrease in blood lymphocytes, a deterioration of their function and a decrease in immunoglobulin levels. In short, a depressed immune activity will facilitate the processes of infection by opportunistic microorganisms, an increased retention of viruses in the tissues and a decrease in the number of Natural Killers, a type of cells responsible for destroying tumor cells and those infected by viruses, among others.
STRATEGIES TO DEAL WITH STRESS
1. Question your thoughts. It is important that we recognize that our thoughts are just that, thoughts: they are not real nor should we believe them at face value. Ask yourself if your thoughts are really true and accurate or if, on the contrary, they are just a belief or perception biased by fear.
2. Embrace the threat as an opportunity. Ask yourself if there is a minimal possibility of growth, whatever the type. Maybe now is the time to dedicate time to that project that you had been putting off for a long time, or to read that book you've wanted to read so much, or start doing yoga!
3. Increase your sense of control. Clearly, we can't control everything, and trying to do so is the perfect recipe for suffering. That said, research has shown that it is our sense of control, not control, that determines how strongly stress affects us. For this reason it will be important that we try to focus our attention on those things that we can influence, find creative solutions and make a list of resources that you can turn to or people that you can ask for help to increase your sense of control and minimize the effects that stressful events have on us.
4. Allow yourself to feel. Give yourself permission to feel fear, blockage, frustration, ... From a state of neutrality. Just watch your emotions without any judgment, detach yourself from them and ask yourself: What exactly do I feel? Where in my body do I feel it? Which shape has? What color is it? And it is when we recognize emotions, however unpleasant they are, when we indulge in them, they dilute and lose their strength.
The tools we offer you can be powerful allies in stressful situations like the one we are experiencing now, but we need to be able to stay present, rooted in the here and now, if we want to apply them effectively. And this is where the importance of mindfulness practice lies, as it helps us focus our attention on the present moment, the place where we should be.
The future is uncertain and we certainly cannot influence it; But we can influence how we respond to what is happening at the moment and it is there, precisely, where we must direct our attention.
Here are some simple tips from psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn to help you get started with mindfulness practice:
Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you feel intense emotions.
Observe, note, what you are feeling at this very moment: what you see, what you hear, what you smell… look at all the details with the curiosity of a child.
Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you.