Stress—it happens to all of us, and none of us particularly enjoy it. What is stress?
The answer to that question is a little more complicated than you may think.
Stress looks different for different situations, and the responses can even differ between people. For example, a broken leg (physiological stress) can be a stressor on the body, and preparing for an upcoming exam (psychological stress) on the mind. Both of these can release hormones into the body that cause a widespread inflammatory response.
This inflammatory response releases small, signaling proteins throughout the body known as cytokines. Cytokines interact with cells of the immune system in order to regulate the body’s response to disease and infection. In plain english, long exposure to stress can cause the immune system to be compromised.
A 2016 study (Shields et al.) conducted by UC Davis researcher Grant Shields compared female subjects under emotional stress versus those under no stress and measured key pro-inflammatory cytokines in their saliva before and after. As predicted, the more emotionally controlled had less pro-inflammatory cytokine response to the stressors – indicating that better cognitive control following an emotional stressor is associated with less pro-inflammatory cytokines.
These findings may help to explain why a positive mindset correlates with better health and immunity. Mindset is a crucial component of our holistic approach to health and well-being here at TB12 – we emphasize the importance of slowing down and regularly taking time to de-stress. When you allow psychological stressors to fester and overwhelm us, there can be an inflammatory response that affects both your body and your immune response.
Set goals for a healthy mindset
Focus on setting positive goals and maintaining a healthy mindset that sets you up to overcome the challenges and stressors you may face – and don't forget to give your brain time and space to recover. Get a full eight hours of sleep or more every night, and focus on your mental health by regularly spending time meditating to calm both your mind and body.
“Mental toughness is centered on doing the best you can in the present while believing you can do even better in the future.”