Why Managing Stress and Emotions are Critical to Getting Your Immune System Ready

Stress is a part of our everyday lives but it can have a negative impact on the immune system if not managed properly

Stress is a part of our everyday lives. It can be short lived such as preparing for a job interview, or long-term in people who face pressures daily, such as caring for an ill loved one.

Stress is a motivator and can help you rise to the occasion when you face challenges. So, it can be a good driver to hep us achieve our goals. When it becomes overwhelming or ongoing without respite, it can take a toll on your immune system.

Within minutes of being activated, the stress response will mobilise immune cells into the bloodstream, preparing the body for potential injury or infection during the “fight and flight”. For our ancestors, this was an especially important adaption as it helped us survive the challenges that mankind would have faced by triggering the inflammatory response. Modern stress in most cases does not involve being chased or eaten, but our immune systems are still primed to respond in that protective way, leading to chronic inflammation.

If the stress is short-lived, the immune system goes back to its state of perpetual readiness. But if stress remains constant, the immune system is frequently activated causing wear-and-tear on the immune system.  Another consequence of chronic stress is activation of latent viruses because of the loss of immunological control placing more load on the immune system.

·        Stress hampers the immune system’s ability to fight off infection making you more susceptible to infection.

·        The stress hormone cortisol can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering white blood cells

·        Stress can also have an indirect effect on the immune system when unhealthy coping strategies are used to deal with stress, such as drinking andsmoking.

·        Short term suppression of the immune system is not dangerous.  However, chronic suppression leaves the body vulnerable to infection and disease.


Stress is unavoidable in our modern lives and yet it is manageable. You can change your responses to stress and have a positive impact on your health resilience. You can stop the cycle of chronic stress and worry with small changes.


Suggestions to reduce immediate stress:

·        Daily walks in nature can be helpful to reduce stress

·        Listen to music or dance to burn off some of the stress hormones

·        Breathe deeply and centre yourself (see the QuickCoherence Technique at the end of this article)

·        Spend time with supportive friends or family


Long-term suggestions for reducing stress:

·        Learn breathing techniques such as Heartmath

·        Build a network of supportive friends and family

·        Learn mindfulness techniques

·        Certain herbal remedies and supplements can be very helpful in managing stress and emotions, but it is advisable to speak to your Functional Medicine practitioner to make sure you get the right support for your body constitution.


Building Coherence

Some of the most powerful work on affecting the nervous system has come out of the Institute of Heartmath. Here is their Quick Coherence Technique..

The power of the QuickCoherence Technique comes from positive emotions. When you engage positive feelings, in the moment, youreplace depleting emotions with ones that can renew your system. The technique is easy, but eachstep is important. With practice, the coherence you establish in your system becomes your new referencepoint making the shift easier and more automatic.

Step 1. Focus your attention in the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slowerand deeper than usual.

Step 2. Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life.

Suggestion:Try to re-experience the feeling you have for someone you love, a pet, aspecial place, an accomplishment, etc., or focus on a feeling of calm or ease.