How to boost your immunity by reducing stress

Last updated: 03-13-2020

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How to boost your immunity by reducing stress

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — All this week, we've been talking about ways to boost your immunity!  We've gone over the foods you can eat and how important it is to stay active. But your mental health can also have an effect on your immune system.

Maintaining a healthy immune system really is a lifestyle. It's all about getting good sleep, eating healthy food and staying active, but the mental health piece is a bit harder. Sometimes we face stressful situations whether we like it or not.

10News Reporter Jenny Dean talked with Dr. Jennifer Leiding, a pediatric immunologist with Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital and USF Health. She says major stressful events, like a job loss can have an effect on our overall health.

"There have been studies that have shown specifically different parts of the immune system that are responsible for fighting against viruses can be lowered and not as functional during times of very high-stress environments," Dr. Leiding said.

So finding ways to handle stress is really the key to this one. Here are some quick tips from Johns Hopkins All Children's Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein:

1) Focus on your breathing - Taking deep breaths and focusing on our breathing is important. When we become stressed, we often start breathing more quickly, and our heart rate increases. By slowing down our breathing, intentionally focusing on our breathing, and breathing more deeply, we can reverse our body's response. Options include diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing, box breathing and many others!

2) Be Mindful - Try to live in the moment and be present. This means worrying less about what has happened and what is going to happen or might happen in the future. Don't ruminate on what has happened in the past, reframe your thoughts to be positive and move forward. Reminding yourself what you are grateful for can also be helpful. Mindfulness training sessions are available online and with therapists!

3) Journal/Write it Down - Sometimes getting our thoughts and worries out on paper, and even writing our never-ending to-do lists, can help reduce stress. 

4) Spend time with those you love - Spending time with friends, family members, pets, etc, are really important to reduce stress. These social supports help to get us through rough times and have been found to reduce anxiety and depression.

5) Know your strategy for relaxation - This varies by person, but learn what helps your body relax. Maybe it is a hot bath, listening to music, reading, taking a fitness or yoga class or another activity. Know what activities help relax you and make a point to include them in your daily and weekly routines!

If you are feeling continually overwhelmed and having trouble managing stress and anxiety, and it is impacting you every day, it is time to talk to your doctor or a psychologist/therapist to get additional help!

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