Stress and Your Immune System

I’ve met maybe a handful of people during my lifetime who had amazing childhoods. Most people don’t. Most people still carry around old wounds and trauma from years and decades ago. The stress caused by not dealing with childhood stuff still affects your life, even if you try oh-so-very-hard to put it neatly away and pretend it doesn’t exist. Believe me, I know. Firsthand.

That’s how I did it for so long. I put it away. I could talk about it sometimes, but mostly it was very matter-of-fact. Or, I’d break down when I’d talk about my mother’s death, for example. Two very different reactions that reflected that even though I thought I had it all wrapped up oh-so-pretty, and it wasn’t affecting me – well, it was.

Do you have some childhood issues that you haven’t truly dealt with yet? Do you think that they’re not affecting you, so why bother?

People’s behaviors speak much louder than what they say. So if you’re good at covering up your feelings, or over-eating, over-drinking, or you have anger-management issues, or you have a habit of self-sabotage…and on and on…guess what?!

You have stuff to process from childhood.

Childhood, particularly up to age 7, is a time where children are vulnerable to their surroundings. Like little sponges, they mop up their role models’ behaviors.

“Mommy says not to drink- it’s bad- but she’s drinking 3 beers a night,” you observe to yourself. 

“Are you really going to have that 2nd piece of cake dear?” asks your aunt, glaring at you. This admonishment serves to heighten your stress about weight gain and self-perception.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” says your dad. Which spurs an incredible amount of financial stress as you grow older.

Different people internalize different beliefs from certain situations. A person who’s told “money doesn’t grow on trees” may decide that they reject that belief and instead, spend money like crazy. Another person may become incredibly stingy and stressed about money. 

We all process the world differently. Childhood was the start of us learning our own process, which was heavily influenced by our caregivers whether we like it or not.

The stress we carry today is a mixture of our thoughts, beliefs, physical symptoms, and the way we perceive the world. The stress we carry has an impact on our physical health and our immune system. 

For example, this past fall, I was in charge of running a conference. I am the executive director of a nonprofit and we host a conference each year. We ask speakers to come in to NYC to give a talk, provide CE (continuing education credit) for our practitioners, we live-stream and record the event, we provide meals for the attendees, and so much more. I’m in charge of the entire event and it’s incredibly stressful for me to have everything running smoothly. 

This year, the live-streaming didn’t work great. People were given the wrong link. All the preparation came down to a copy and paste URL which was incorrectly provided to me from a well-meaning source. Boy, did we get a ton of complaints!

Long story short, we fixed the issue within an hour, but by then I was incredibly adrenalized. Cortisol levels shot up and I just couldn’t de-stress. I had to be “on” for the rest of the day for this conference.

Two days later, I got sick. Flu-sick. Yuck-sick.

My stress levels had demolished my immunity and there I was, instead of enjoying a couple days off from a busy weekend, I was flat on my back in bed sick as a dog.

Stress lowers your immunity.

Why is this important?

Because right now, with the Coronavirus going around the world in basically warp-speed, it’s more important than ever to get our stress under control so that when the big C visits your neck of the woods, you’ll be cool as a cucumber and not letting that C get you sick. You gotta stay healthy! You’re important!

Ways to Lower Your Stress:

What are some ways you lessen stress in your own life? 

stress and immune system

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