There has been a strong stigma surrounding depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses for years. People who don’t suffer from mental illnesses often have a hard time understanding that a mental disease can affect a person physically as much as a purely physical disease. Technically, purely physical diseases can affect a person mentally as well. They actually go hand-in-hand – stress and depression can weaken your immune system.
Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
Everyone will experience stress throughout their lives, but stress isn’t always bad! Stress is what triggers our natural fight-or-flight response, and can get us out of a bad situation safely. Even our defensive driving skills are controlled by stress. When you swerve into the shoulder to avoid an accident, that is your body initiating its flight or fight response as a result of the car stopping short in front of you causing stress.
Good stress gives us extra boosts of energy and keeps us alert. Anxiety before an interview or a big meeting can also be classified as good stress because it typically gives us the motivation to work hard enough to succeed. However, constant worrying or prolonged stressful events lead to chronic stress. Chronic, or bad stress, is what weakens our bodies both physically and mentally.
One common disorder linked with stress is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. It is especially common among our brave men and women who return from serving our country or others who experience traumatic events in their lives. Those with PTSD have a hard time “turning off” their fight-or-flight response and live in a constant state of worry. They are always “on edge,” have weak immune systems, and often have a difficult time staying at a healthy weight.
Stress Linked With Obesity
As it turns out, stress is triggered by the release of the hormone Cortisol, which can slow down motivation and metabolism. This means that stress can cause you to not only lose the motivation to eat healthily and exercise, but also lose the metabolism to break down fatty foods.
A study proved that people with higher levels of cortisol (tested through hair strands) are more likely to have excess fat or rank as obese. Obesity can also weaken your immune system.
Stress Linked With Immunity
An excessive amount of the hormone Cortisol can lead to inflammation within the immune system, ultimately weakening it. A weak immune system means that you are much more likely to catch infections and get sick, leaving you both mentally and physically hindered by stress. Plus, obesity lowers your immunity.
Trying to avoid a mental illness is like trying to avoid cancer – you can try, but sometimes your brain doesn’t want to cooperate. Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, NOT a bad day as some may believe. However, some stress is avoidable. Here are some quick tips on avoiding stress and staying healthy:
- Time Management – Workplace stress is all-too-common in the United States, especially among those who return from work to find household chores and a family to take care of. Scheduling your days far in advance and keeping checklists can go far in making you feel accomplished and less stressed.
- Healthy Habits – Eating right and exercising is just as important for your mental health as it is for your physical health. Consider preparing lunch meals ahead of time instead of grabbing fast food and find ways to work in 10-minute workouts throughout your day.
- Sleep – Maintaining a steady sleep schedule can make it easier to get up in the morning, ultimately lowering your stress. Try going to bed and waking up around the same time every day, even on weekends!
If a stressful event sneaks up on you, it’s hard to think about consequences that may affect your health. However, consider creating a habit of taking vitamin supplements every day. They can help give your body the extra tools it needs if you eat poorly or experience a lot of stress. Vitamin supplements are not an alternative to eating right – they just provide extra benefits.
Make sure you’re covered in the event of a weakened immune system. Speak to a HealthTN agent today with questions about your coverage. Fill out our information form here or call (615) 541-4257.