From our naturopath Eliza Mätas.
Stressed out? I think we can all admit that the year 2020 has been a tad stressful. Even if you don't personally feel too inconvenienced by COVID-19, the collective aura of uncertainty as we trench through a pandemic is enough to get our nervous system firing a little more than usual.
Luckily we are resilient beings and for the most part, as long as we get enough sleep, drink enough water and take a little time out for ourselves, we can bounce back brighter and better than ever quite quickly after going through a stressful patch. Where the problem lies is if this stressful patch becomes a stressful football field.
While the pandemic lives on and supporting our immune system over the long haul becomes more and more of a priority, it's growing increasingly important to understand the delicate dance between the stress we will inadvertently come in into contact with and how we can best support our health overall so our immune system stays working at its optimum.
Our stress response is primarily driven by our autonomic nervous system which is broken down into two main components - our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The SNS is responsible for keeping us alive when we encounter anything stressful - be it a lion or a bad egg salad sandwich, the SNS will do whatever it takes to get us through the situation by shutting down regular ongoing processes that aren't absolutely necessary to get us through that stressful period. In the instance of the lion, our heart rate will increase, our adrenals will stop producing regular sex hormones and prioritise producing Cortisol and Adrenaline, regular immune responses are temporarily switched off and blood will be prioritised away from our digestive system and to our extremities so we can quickly run away. Once the danger is clear, the 'rest and digest' component of our nervous system, the PNS, should activate to bring our heart rate back into check, slow our breathing, turn our immune system back on and move blood back to our other organs again to put us properly into chill mode. However then comes along a pandemic and you're constantly on edge...
This is where it gets interesting and where we can do our best work to make sure we come out the other side as well as we can. Aside from lions and potential food poisoning which are physical and chemical stresses, constant mental stress (ie. lockdowns with family we're only used to spending 2 hrs a day with!) also triggers our SNS to go into overdrive. Not always to the extreme on/off of the lion scenario, but think of it as a low yet constant stream of Cortisol keeping our ability to go into 'rest and digest' mode away. This has troublesome implications for our immune system that heavily relies on our PNS to tell it when and where to function. It's no coincidence that when we've been busy for a long time we get run down and pick up a bug, so now that you're aware there's plenty you can do to switch off the stress and switch on your immunity.
Here's the five best things you can do to reduce stress and support your immune system.
1. Self Care
Slowing down and taking time out for yourself away from the noise and distraction of obligations, and especially the internet, is the essential first step for reducing stress.
As we tend to burn through our nutritional resources when under stress it's also imperative that we supply our body with all the energy and nutrition it needs so we don't come out the otherside feeling more depleted than ever. Our Super Greens + Reds (available on our Australian Website) powder contains a targeted selection of vitamins and minerals and is a good one to keep on hand at all times just to top up or help to fill any nutritional gaps. Thriving Protein (Available on our Australian Website also contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals, protein, fats and fibres to keep you feeling full when energy demands are high. Adequate protein intake is also a necessity for immune function so don't shy away just because you may not be hitting the gym as hard as usual. And our Broth range is a go-to immune supporter with a source of Zinc and B Vitamins.
Get your full eight hours of sleep at night as this is when our PNS works at its best to restore order after a hectic day.
Drinking plenty of water will help ensure your lymphatic system (the roadway of the immune system) is well hydrated so immune cells can function appropriately.
And of course last but not least, getting at least 30 minutes of safe sun exposure for your daily dose of Vitamin D and mother nature will work wonders to help regulate your immune system and your sanity.