"You can't always control what happens outside, but you can always control what happens inside." Wayne Dyer
We are united by the shared experience of dealing with the first pandemic of our lives. It has been an unquestionably stressful period and we have all experienced the emotional and physical symptoms of stress to some degree throughout its duration. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, palpitations, disturbed bowel movements, and an exacerbation of existing health conditions such as hypertension and autoimmune diseases. In fact, a survey conducted in late April 2020 found that the prevalence of clinically significant levels of mental distress increased from 18.9% in 2018-19 to 27.3% in April 2020, just one month after the start of the pandemic worldwide.
You may even feel frustrated when you're told to "calm down" and "relax." After all, how can I relax with so much suffering in the world? We have all had those thoughts and feelings at some point during this period. This is why today we want to raise awareness and help you understand how harmful stress is for our immune system and everything you can do preventively through nutrition and lifestyle to minimize the impact of stressful situations on your body. your body.
Our body consumes the same nutrients to respond to stress situations as it does to maintain our defense system ( Vitamin C , Zinc and Magnesium ) , therefore, it is very likely that if we live in constant stress our immune system will be directly affected, having greater risk of getting sick. The research community has given special importance to these nutrients in terms of the prevention and management of the current pandemic.
Low levels of Magnesium can reduce our ability to resist stress due to the role it plays in the balance of the nervous system and its natural relaxing effect. At the same time, if we have a magnesium deficiency our ability to activate Vitamin D is reduced and this is directly related to a greater risk of infection. Vitamin C is known for its antioxidant effect and its ability to eliminate free radicals, which helps our cells to stay protected from oxidative stress, but also plays an important role in our nervous system and psychological function. Several studies have even suggested that vitamin C deficiency may be related to mental health conditions. Finally, Zinc directly influences our body's resistance to stress, in addition to its important immunological function by blocking viral replication.
Prolonged stress can affect the vital biological process of methylation, which in turn is directly affected by a lack ofB Complex vitamins, which are necessary for this process, energy production and the proper functioning of the nervous system. Methylation particularly helps us manage and neutralize the stress response, therefore, the more stressed we are, the more we affect methylation and reduce its ability to support our immune system and defend against infections. Vitamin B6, which is part of the B complex, is especially important in the production of Serotonin and the calming and anxiolytic neurotransmitter GABA.
A stress process that lasts over time will also be associated with low-grade chronic inflammation, another factor that directly influences the weakness of the immune system. Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory hormone, however, when it is produced in excess (due to stress) our cells become less sensitive to its anti-inflammatory effects, facilitating the process of chronic inflammation, which is the basis for the development of many diseases.
The quality of sleep and the interruption of the sleep-wake cycle are also affected when we remain under constant stress, once again favoring inflammatory processes, alterations in hormonal regulation, metabolic function and the immune system.
Another important factor to consider is that the majority of the population is working from home experiencing low exposure to daylight, constantly holding meetings via video conference and facing high levels of exposure to blue light. Not to mention people who work in a hospital environment for whom this abnormal light exposure is constant. “Light pollution” facilitates higher levels of cortisol throughout the day, along with lower nighttime levels of melatonin, making us feel stimulated well into the night and prompting lighter sleep. This can negatively affect our immunity, as well as our mood and energy. Surprisingly, those with less than 7 hours of sleep per night are up to 3 times more likely to develop a common cold than those with 8 or more hours of sleep. At the same time, chronic stress is one of the main drivers of sleep disruption and quality.
In this sense, when we feel stressed and sleep poorly, we are prone to choosing less healthy foods and lifestyles. Our intake of alcohol and refined sugar tends to increase and both are known to harm our immune system. During lockdown, many of us started drinking more alcohol than usual and home baking increased in popularity.
Finally, stress can further hinder our immunity through its negative effect on gut health. It can reduce the concentration of secretory IgA in our mucous membranes and deteriorate the integrity of the intestinal wall, our first line of defense against pathogens. This can also affect the absorption of immune-supporting nutrients by causing digestive disturbances.
With so many things out of our control right now, it's important to focus on what you can control. This includes your self-care, of which stress management is a vital part and a great strategy is to begin nourishing your nervous system with "calming" nutrients that support psychological function: Magnesium , B Complex , Zinc and Vitamin C. In addition, supporting intestinal health with the ideal live microorganisms (Probiotic Supplements) to improve the relationship between the Gut and the Brain, promoting the secretion of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA and melatonin, which are essential for mood and quality of sleep. This will not only help your immune system, but all the other systems in your body!
We leave you some tips to manage stress:
Identify the cause: This can be as simple as sitting and thinking, writing down everything that's on your mind, or talking to someone and releasing it. Once you identify what is driving or causing stress, this becomes much easier to address and resolve.
Write a gratitude journal: A humble way to start your day is to think of 3 things (or even just 1) that you are grateful for. Often in times of stress, we can feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts. Identifying things to be grateful for will give you a positive perspective focus right away. If you're not a fan of journaling, it's just as effective to say it out loud.
Bathe with your favorite essential oils : Opt for calming ones like lavender, rose or jasmine. Not only will being in the bathroom calm your stress, but these aromas will calm you down and help you breathe deeply. For best results, try doing this before bed to improve your sleep quality as well.
Laughter Therapy : Laughing is a simple and effective way to relieve stress and release endorphins for instant relaxation. During stressful times, we may find that we have forgotten to smile. You can do this with your partner or a friend or you can choose to try a laughter yoga class. The concept may sound strange, but even trying it will make you laugh and smile naturally, lifting your spirits.
Avoid Alcohol : It's so easy to reach for that glass of wine to calm anxiety and stress. However, alcohol can actually increase stress levels, intensify feelings, increase irritability and affect sleep, often leading to more drinking the next day, creating a vicious cycle. Instead, opt for these calming teas; chamomile, lemon balm, rose, green tea and mint, or for those looking for a cold, refreshing drink, consider Kombucha, a probiotic-rich drink that supports gut health.
Exercise: Release of those feel-good endorphins! Exercise is a very effective way to eliminate stress, you can choose any way that suits your needs. Consider boxing if you're feeling angry, walking or running if you want some alone time, or yoga if you're feeling emotional.
Be kind to yourself: The last thing you need is to add more stress. Free yourself, encourage yourself, celebrate yourself, cry if necessary and be patient with yourself. Remember that what you are feeling right now is not permanent.