The Negative Effects of Stress on the Immune System [Episode #495]
Today’s solocast topic is: The Negative Effects of Stress on the Immune System
Hi Beauties! It’s likely that we’ve been experiencing more stress than usual these last several months. But did you know that stress can have a strong negative impact on the immune system? Chronic stress, while it might affect us mentally and emotionally, can actually influence the way our body functions, weakening the immune system and making us more susceptible to illness and disease!
While we can’t always control what is happening in the world around us, we can control how we process our feelings and manage our stress. So today I’ll be discussing stress and the immune system, and ways we can cope with stress to keep ourselves healthy!
Topics Covered In The Negative Effects of Stress on the Immune System
#1. How our wellness is fundamentally interconnected, through the lens of our Four Cornerstones of True Beauty
#2. The link between stress and immunity
#3. How stress negatively affects the immune system
#4. Six practical tips for overcoming stress for stronger immunity
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Kimberly: Hey, Beauties. Welcome back to our solocast episode today where our topic is the negative effects of stress on our immune system and ways to cope. I’m really excited to be back with you guys. This is my first solocast since coming back from maternity leave and having our new little baby. It’s been a really nice period. It’s been a big adjustment having two kids now, being home all the time. I think this topic about stress, whether it’s related to our new form of our home life, our day-to-day experience now in quarantine, and what’s going on in the world with the coronavirus, is really poignant right now.
Kimberly: I think a lot of us in different ways are experiencing more stress, even if it is … some of it’s positive, like spending more time with your kids, having a new baby, it still makes a big difference on your body. Your body has to cope with new shifts and new changes, and this definitely has an effect on your immunity and your wellness overall. So, really excited to dive in. I have missed you guys. I’ve been keeping up with some of your questions and getting back into the Q&A Thursday show. But again, this is my first solocast, so I’m really excited.
Fan Of The Week
Kimberly: Before I dive in, though, I want to give a quick shout-out to our fan of the week, as always. His or her name is MJB202020. He or she writes, “I have been listening for years. Kimberly is an amazing source of information. Thank you so much for everything you do.” MJB. I know I keep saying that. MJB202020, thank you so much for being our fan of the week. Thank you so much for taking the time to write in. And most of all, thank you so much for being part of our community. I am very grateful for our connection, and especially since we’ve been together for a while. Very honored to walk the path with you. So, thank you again, and hopefully one day we’ll meet at an event or a signing, something when we get past all of this, we get on the other side.
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Kimberly: And Beauties, for your chance to also be shouted out as the fan of the week, please just head over to iTunes. Leave us a review, like MJB’s here. It can be super brief. It can be a sentence or two, or it can be longer, whatever’s in your heart. But either way, it’s a great way to support the show and to help other beauties just like you find this information, which can hopefully really benefit them in their lives.
Kimberly: All right. So let’s head into our topic today, which, again, is about the effects and the connection between stress and our immune system and how we can cope. So of course, right now with everything going on in the world, immunity and wellness has been very much top of mind for all us, maybe more than never. Maybe you’ve been someone that’s taken your immunity for granted. I know I have a lot because I’m generally someone that doesn’t get sick that much and has pretty good energy.
Kimberly: But now, I think all of us, no matter what our general disposition has been towards immunity, I think we are all very much aware of it. We’ve been thinking about it. We’ve been wondering how we can protect ourselves more and our families. What we see around us is a lot of … This has been going on for some months now, but there’s a lot of emphasis on vitamin C, and echinacea, and elderberry, and a lot of these different plants and aides, which I think can be really, really helpful and really wonderful. We’ve covered that topic and some other shows, and we’ll continue to talk about certain, again, plants, and foods, and practices that you can bring into your life that will benefit your immunity.
Kimberly: But, the focus of our show today is about stress. I think this is really important to focus on. Because even though you don’t see it, the way you can pick up 11 and you can see 11, stress has just a big an impact, if not more, on your body and on your ability to ward off illness, and to protect yourself, and to feel in your fullest vitality. Especially chronic stress, which is sort of that low-grade where you … It’s like having your foot on the brake a little bit all the time. That has such a wearing effect on your mind, on your body. It weakens us mentally and emotionally, and it actually influences the way our body functions, and it can make us much more susceptible to illness and disease.
How our wellness is fundamentally interconnected, through the lens of our Four Cornerstones of True Beauty
Kimberly: So, we can’t control what’s going on in the world outside of us, of course. And there’s certainly a lot of stuff going on right now. But, we really want to focus on this inner terrain on what’s going on inside of us. It’s really important to approach it from our Four Cornerstone perspective, which is not just on the physical. It’s not just on what we can pick up, what we can take, a pill we can pop, a cream we can rub on, but the parts of us that are the unseen, the emotional, the spiritual sides.
Kimberly: So as many of you know, I have a brand called Solluna, and we certainly … I certainly love and formulate physical products, like skincare, and supplements, and amazing probiotics. But, I also am very passionate about teaching meditation. And in our Solluna Circle, we talk about our emotional well-being a lot, and we talk about journaling and introspection. These all work together to give you the best possible results. So in our solocast today, I definitely want to cover stress and how we can deal with it from all different parts of our body, and even really emphasize to you how important this is for your immunity beyond just taking physical things and also the foods that you eat as well.
The link between stress and your immune system
Kimberly: So, let’s get right into the first … Let’s start with basics, how stress impacts your immune system in general. As I mentioned, there’s the low-grade stress. It’s sort of happening all the time in the background. It’s like low-grade inflammation versus acute inflammation. So if you cut yourself or you hit your hand or something and your hand gets puffy and red, that’s that acute state. And with stress, it’s someone bumps into your fender of your car or your child knocks over glass that shatters into a million pieces, and that feels really stressful.
Kimberly: But just like the low-grade inflammation, which can happen from eating inflammatory foods, nibbling on them day to day, this low-grade stress, this chronic stress is something that really wears out your system because we never really let it go. We don’t really recover from it. So it means that our bodies are in this perpetual state, this threatened state. Our nervous system‘s charged. We feel heightened. It’s a heightened, extended, sustained state of being in fight or flight, which really should be something that we dip in and out as needed to protect ourselves from very real dangers. But again, the problem is when we stay in that mode, and our bodies were never really meant to be in that chronic state, this is when we start to have an effect on our …
Kimberly: The effect on our bodies is downright scary when we start to really realize what is happening. This includes everything from our adrenal glands releasing hormones in response to stress, these hormones really being overworked and over time working less efficiently. This means when there’s adrenal imbalance in our system, it impairs our immunity, making us more susceptible to disease and illness. It means that our digestive system can be impacted negatively. Our digestion tends to slow down. Toxins tend to bioaccumulate in our bodies. And this, of course, also affects our immunity.
Kimberly: Because as I’ve been talking about for years and years, the more toxins that are in our system, the more clogged we are, the more we hold in our bodies, it dampens our natural energy. It keeps all these foreign matters and heaviness in our system, so it keeps our body from functioning at its optimal peak. It means that our blood gets recirculated with a density of toxins in it, and our bodies have a much harder time to repair. And again, because there’s so much in our system, our immunity in turn definitely takes a nosedive. With everything that’s out there right now, and all the fear, and because there is … We are in the middle of a pandemic with a very contagious illness out there. This is something that is not good, not something that we want to have in our lives.
Kimberly: So, that’s the bad part of it, so to speak. But the good side of it is that once we’re aware of stress, and especially in this chronic long-term stress, the tips and strategies I’m going to give you today, even if you employ them some of the time, or you tackle one, you focus on one, or two, or three, or maybe all of them, you can really take the power back in your own hands, and this is something that you do have control over. So, that feels really good to know that we’re not completely powerless. There are things we can do. There are measures we can take. That’s really rooted in a way that we approach our lifestyle.
Kimberly: First, I want to also call out a couple studies. These can also be found in the show notes if you’re a study reader and you like to dive in deep and take a look. Some of us like to read the studies, some of us don’t. I like to read the studies. Sometimes I definitely have had periods of my life where I have read study after study, and it gives me that satisfaction. Now I like the studies to back up the intuitive knowledge I feel like. So, I like to use studies in that way. I think studies are really wonderful for the discerning mind to connect wisdom and intuitive knowledge to grounding it into the science. And there’s plenty of science to back this up.
How stress negatively affects the immune system
Kimberly: We know stress doesn’t feel good. We can feel what’s going on in our bodies if we tune in. We can feel that hollowness in the pit of our stomach, or we can feel the diarrhea, or the constipation, or the loss of appetite, or the chronic overeating. And we know none of this feels good. Then, the science is there to also back that up, which also I think feels good.
Kimberly: A study called Psychological Stress in the Human Immune System was from 30 years of scientists compiling research about stress and immunity. It found that chronic stress suppressed both cellular and overall immunity. It was found to increase inflammation throughout the body, which, as we know, puts us at a greater risk for disease, and it also speeds up the aging process.
Kimberly: So, stress is wearing us down in so many different ways on so many different levels of our being. It makes us more tired. It kind of takes the oomph out of our shakti, out of our energy, out of our flow, and on the inside of our body. That’s happening, as this study showed, on a cellular level. Our cells are degrading, and dying, and not coming back as efficiently and in our full vitality. And that affects how we look and how we feel on all levels.
Kimberly: Another study was published in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience. It found that stress-induced inflammation is essentially the gateway for a number of diseases. So again, sometimes we feel something is right, but then when we have the double impact of feeling it’s right, and then also hearing the science, I think it can help to really inspire us to shift and to change. So, I hope that hearing that, oh, it’s the aging, it’s going to make me susceptible to a lot of different diseases, is some pretty good motivation to focus on this.
Kimberly: Again, I think sometimes it’s easy to just focus on the food, and the exercise, and the things that we can touch and that we can see. But, the most powerful way to approach this is from the four cornerstone perspective where we focus on the physical aspects and on the unseen parts, and especially the stress and the emotional aspects.
7 practical tips for overcoming stress for stronger immunity
#1: Create a Dignified Environment
Kimberly: Here’s some of the tools that we can do that I have found make a really big difference. The first is creating a dignified environment. I don’t use the word dignity a lot, but I think that it’s a very beautiful word, a beautiful energy to bring up, this idea where we want to … We consciously create a space around us of high vibration, and integrity, and love, and kindness, and, again, back to dignity.
Kimberly: Positive mindsets have a powerful, profound impact on our stress, and we have to consciously create that. And when we do that, we experience the benefits. So when I’m talking about a dignified environment, I’m talking about a positive environment where we do not allow in negative talk, gossiping, judging a lot. We all judge to an extent. We judge ourselves. We judge other people. But where it becomes a big focus of the space that we’re in, and also even indulging overindulging in negative news.
Kimberly: The news is there. The news is not great, as we know. The news can be quite scary, as we know. The news is not positive vibes. The news is usually negative vibes. So, we want to really monitor as part of our environment how our relationship to the news. As I’ve shared with you guys before, I don’t have a TV. I don’t like to watch the news. I think the combination of the visual and the audio is overwhelming. I feel it in my nervous system.
Kimberly: So the way my relationship with the news is scanning the headlines, looking at the apps that compile the headlines from some sources that I like and I trust, and not doing it multiple times a day, but keeping up to what feels good to me. And to be honest, right now I’m so busy with the baby, and Bubby, and our home environment, and our practices, like family dinner, and grace, and things like that, that I don’t even really tune into the headlines every single day. And if something’s going on that I need to know about, my husband or someone will certainly share it with me. But, every other day, or even more spaced out, but I don’t feel great. It doesn’t add to my dignified environment, so to speak, if I overindulged in the news.
Kimberly: So, that’s something that I encourage you to look out. What is your relationship with the news? And does it serve you? Does it feel good or is it something that could use some adjusting right now.
Kimberly: The gossiping bit and the low vibes, the negative talk, I think this is where it’s important to really take a hard look at who we are hanging out with, who we are spending time with. This is certainly going to impact your stress. Sometimes we take on the stress of other people, and some of you may be very, very much empath. I’m an empath as well, meaning I’m very sensitive to other people’s energy. So because of that, I’m very mindful of the friends that I have around, the women, the people in my inner circle, and the people that I communicate with a lot. We may have some long-term friends, or colleagues, or family members, people that we can’t just cut out that we can see are gossipy and negative, but we can be mindful about how much time we spend with them. Just notice how our relationship with them and, again, the time we put it.
Kimberly: We know that the more negative that we are, the more we bring in stress, the more susceptible we are to stress. And again, that, of course, is going to impact our immunity in a negative way. So no, there’s no right or wrong answer. No one’s inherently bad or good, but our relationships can shift, and our time focus can shift with awareness.
#2: Getting Better Sleep
Kimberly: Second tip for dealing with stress is to get good sleep. We all know that when we sleep better, we are less tense, less snappy, less … The little things that from day-to-day life tend to bother us less, and so we tend to get less riled up. I feel now that Moses, our new son, is a couple months old now, he’s moving along in his cycle. Ah, he’s getting longer stretches of sleep, and we all feel better in the house. It’s like, “Ah!” When you wake up in the morning and the sun feels brighter and the tea tastes better when you have more sleep. This is just a really wonderful way to nourish your nervous system and to nourish your health.
Kimberly: We need to be open during the day and to be outward and to do things, and then we also need that rest part of our cycle, the lunar part. There’s the solar, the lunar part, the Solluna, the luna part where we rest, and we rejuvenate, and we let ourselves heal. And without that, we will not have the peak of our immunity.
Kimberly: According to a report from the CDC, individuals who get less than seven hours of sleep a night are at risk for anxiety, depression, and a number of different diseases. Now, that’s an aspirational number, I feel like. I’m certainly not getting seven hours of sleep every night, but it’s a great goal. I know that I’m working towards that. It’s hard, of course, with everything going on, and commitments, and the new baby, but it’s just good. It’s a good reminder to know how important it is.
Kimberly: Some things we can do are to create an evening routine, which I like doing very much. I do abhyanga. I do a bit of an oil massage. I take a warm shower. Sometimes I shower while I’m giving Bubby a bath. It’s a way to sort of multitask. The way our bathroom is is they’re together, so he’ll be in there playing with his bath toys for a while and I just kind of let him play before I soap him up. Then, we together like to give Mr. Eggy a bath, which is what he calls Moses, what he calls our new baby. So, it’s just a nice little family routine. Hubby comes up, and we kind of make it a just a fun time together as a family. So, that’s part of our practice.
Kimberly: It’s post dinner, but sometime I like to include the dinner part as well. We like to do a family dinner. We like to say grace. We like to say gratitude. And that feels like a nice way to bring the energy of the day down towards inward, good feelings and a way from just the outward external life, which can be very stressful and overwhelming. So, it’s sort of pulling the energy back in, pulling it into the family.
Kimberly: I also journal. I read a lot at night, just even if it’s a couple of pages because I’m tired. No ebooks. I really like physical books. I like to underline things. I like to just write things that I get inspired by. Sometimes I’ll read something and it inspires a whole new idea. So, I really like physical books, and that’s part of my wind-down routine.
Kimberly: Lately, I’ve been drinking Tulsi tea as well, almost every night, which is a very supportive tea. It’s a supportive herb for your nervous system. You can check that out. There’s a lot of different brands, like Organic India, which are great sources for Tulsi tea.
Kimberly: Then, yoga is something I’ve talked about quite a bit. I love, again, the research that continues to come out about practices like yoga and meditation, which are ancient, but have experienced such a revival in the modern world, which I think speaks a lot to their timelessness and to their power. Including research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, which shows that yoga can directly boost your immune system and reduce stress-related information. Information. Inflammation.
Kimberly: I used to think that, “Ugh, my practice has to be this big thing. It has to be an hour, an hour and a half. I have to put aside time. I need to make it this big set part of my day.” But, I don’t have that luxury anymore. It’s great I can get away even right now to do this solocast for half an hour. So even Mr. Eggy is comfortable playing by himself, I put him in the bassinet for a moment, Bubby’s playing by himself too, and I get 10 minutes, 10 minutes is wonderful. You can do a lot in even 10 minutes.
Kimberly: I like to do shoulder and heart openers, which feel very stress-relieving to me. Grating your back, and it just feels great to have that heart energy pushed forward. It just feels very reviving to my energy. So even if it’s just grabbing my opposite elbows behind my back, which I’m doing right now, or clasping my hands together and just behind my back and just opening up my shoulders, that feels really good. Or a couple cat cows. Sometimes I do some warrior poses, especially warrior one into warrior two. I like that simple sequence a lot just to feel focused, and grounded, and, as far as our topic today, dispelling excess stress, just feeling into your body, taking some deep breaths.
Kimberly: So, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes if you get the chance, a couple of times a week is a really great way to connect with your body, and with your breath, and to get rid of the stress, to help dispel the stress. Whoosh. Let it just flow right out of your system.
Kimberly: So along with that, the connection to the yoga, the purpose, really, the classical purpose of asanas of physical yoga is really tied to meditation. A study, which I also linked to in the show notes, by psychologist found that meditation helps you, can help you turn into an optimist by boosting positive feelings and displacing the negativity, therefore helping to reduce chronic stress.
Kimberly: I think this is a really interesting study focused about optimism. To me, the way that works is because meditation takes you out of time and space, it takes you out of the daily grind and all these time deadlines and things we have to do. We get overburdened. We get overwhelmed. But when we are meditating, we’re literally out of time and space. We’re literally in the infinite. We are in our breath, which is the connection between our body and our soul and oneness. It’s a very elevated place to be, and it’s blissful.
Kimberly: So, I think that’s why it inspires optimism because we remember the infinity. We remember the oneness. We remember our limitlessness, the aspect of us which is so deep, and beautiful, and can’t be pinned down. That is a state that we want to access every day. Because otherwise, we get too caught up in the wear, and the tear, and the physicality, and the finiteness of life, which isn’t everything there is. So meditation, I think, is really essential to our happiness, to our joyfulness, and, of course, to reducing stress.
#5: Breathing practices
Kimberly: Then, along with that, a subversion, is breath work and breathing practices, which in yoga are referred to as pranayama, control of the life force, which is the breath. This is separate to meditation because you can do breath work in between your meditations in your daily life. Sometimes when I’m playing with Bubby and MOsey and we’re just outside, I just remind myself to take some deep breaths. I remind myself to slow down. I focus on the space in between the inhales and the exhales. What happens is funny thing happens. Just by focusing on that, they tend to expand and get extended. So, it’s just something that you can work into your life, just being more aware of your breath, and the power of your breath, and the beauty of your breath and all that … the power of it to work with your moods, and your energy, and helping you release stress.
Kimberly: So of course, when you feel something stressful, you can take some deep breaths and consciously cool yourself down. But, I find just paying attention to your breath any time is a great way to help prevent that buildup of stress. So, it’s just the little moments in between when you remember, when you’re taking a shower or doing the dishes or whatever. You can just remember to notice your breath and to slow down your breath. And that in and of itself is a really powerful practice.
#6: Being present
Kimberly: The next tool I want to give you is to be present. And when we’re present, we can be there. And a lot of times stress builds up when we’re there, but we’re not there, when we’re focusing on a million different things, our to-do list. We’re projecting forward into the future. We’re worried that we’re not doing enough. We’re worried that something is taking us out of time. And so we skip past the flowers on our walk without smelling them and looking at them or we don’t notice how beautiful, wonderful that hug feels from our child. We kind of are there, but we’re thinking about the next thing.
Kimberly: So, presence is a powerful way to reduce stress because we’re here. And right now, right here, as Eckhart Tolle says, we don’t have problems. We don’t have anything. We have things we may need to deal with and things in the future that are going to come up. But when we’re present, we don’t have to worry about, oh my gosh, what’s going to happen next year, and how long has this coronavirus going to go on for, and what’s going to happen, what’s going to happen. It’s super stressful.
Kimberly: Those are really stressful mind patterns, which not only stress us out and not only reduce our immunity, but they don’t really help, and we don’t have the answers. So, we’re really just riling ourselves up and putting ourselves into a vulnerable position and we’re not getting any benefit. So, keep bringing yourself back into the present. Look into the eyes of whoever you’re talking to. Be in the conversation. When you’re eating, focus on chewing. Focus on the food. When you were playing with your child, play with your child. When you’re working, focus on the task at hand. But, really focus. Really try to cultivate that sense of presence, which, again, is incredibly, incredibly powerful and a day-to-day practice.
#7: Back away from perfectionism
Kimberly: And the last thing that I want to mention, and this is something that’s very close to my heart, so much so that the title of my last book was Recipes For Your Perfectly Imperfect Life, is to back away from perfectionism, which is, I think, a … It’s like a concept that builds more and more with social media because we’re exposed to so many images and the … People’s lives come into our life so much through feeds like Instagram, and Twitter, and so on and so forth. So, it’s easy to feel like I’m not good enough. I’m not doing enough. My life isn’t as good, whatever. I don’t look as good. This perfectionism, which of course is very stressful and very unhealthy. It’s like we’re grasping. We’re grasping. We’re beating ourselves up.
Kimberly: So, I think having a healthy relationship with social media is also really important. And I think it’s important that we have the space to connect with ourselves, and to our uniqueness, and to keep reminding ourselves that there’s no one else in the world like us, and that we want to focus on growth, and our path, and expressing ourselves in an authentic way. But, the goal is never perfectionism. And it never makes us happy.
Kimberly: Even if we have more people liking our staff, or we get more compliments, or we do more, just remember, when those things happen, ask yourself, “Does it really make you happy?” The answer’s usually no. It’s like your happiness is usually tied to … Or I know my happiness is tied to feeling connected through real conversations, real connection with our loved ones, time with loved ones, like my hubby and my kids. And it’s not about all the stuff, like how it looks on the surface or more we acquire.
Kimberly: So, it’s just a daily reminder. It’s something to sit with, something to remind yourself of when that stress starts to build that you’re not enough. Remember, you are enough. You are good enough just as you are. I promise you that is the truth. And just rest into that, relax into that, and give yourself a break.
Kimberly: I hope that you enjoyed our solocast today. I certainly enjoyed being back with you guys and back here sitting here with the recorder and sending you lots of love. I hope you can feel it through the vibration of the podcast. Everything is energy. Everything’s vibration. I’m really grateful for you. I’m grateful for this podcast, and our community, and just the chance to share with one another.
Kimberly: There’s lots of ways to connect with me. I authentically do love to connect. And I do miss our in-person circles, and book signings, and times where I can give you a hug and look into your eyes. But, this is really the next best thing where you can connect with me either here. There’s a section on mysolluna.com where it’s easy to ask questions, which I answer every week on Thursdays in the Q&A podcast. You can also connect with me on social.
Kimberly: Speaking of positive social, [inaudible 00:32:17] I try to keep mine really high vibe. My handle’s @_kimberlysnyder. And our Solluna handle, which I definitely recommend you follow as well for tips, and recipes, and lots of information, is sollunabyks. So, you can connect with me there, also Facebook, wherever your spot is in our Solluna circle. There’s lots of great ways to connect.
Kimberly: So, thank you so much for tuning in. I send you lots and lots of love. And I will be back here Thursday for our next Q&A podcast. Till then, take care and lots of love.