How anxiety and stress affect the immune system

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woman relaxing on the beach at sunset to reduce stress and anxiety
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From work pressures to personal challenges, anxiety and stress have become daily companions for many of us. We become aware that we begin to suffer from anxiety and stress when we detect the first common symptoms, such as overwhelming feelings and obsessive or recurring thoughts, without realizing that it can affect a vital part of our body: the immune system.

In this article we will not only explore the symptoms of stress and anxiety that often go unnoticed, but also give you the knowledge you need to identify them early. Understanding these symptoms is crucial, as it will allow you to deal with them before they can trigger a significant deterioration in your well-being.

 

Differences between stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two phenomena that affect many people today and are often used as synonyms. Although they share similar symptoms, they are different reactions that can make it difficult to distinguish between them. It is crucial to understand their distinct characteristics in order to deal with them effectively.

Stress is a physiological reaction of the body that manifests itself over short periods of time and is triggered in response to an identifiable threat. In other words, our body reacts by generating cortisol and adrenaline in order to cope with the immediate challenge.

On the other hand, anxiety is a state of mind (already classified as a mental illness like depression) that tends to last and appear without an apparent cause. In a simple way, we could say that the mind is unable to relax and is always anxious not to return to past problems, to those situations that caused so much stress, or anticipating future problems that are really uncertain.

Stress is related to present demands and is linked to the immediate activation of the stress response system. Anxiety, on the other hand, involves a prolonged preoccupation with danger or threat. It manifests itself in intrusive thoughts, physiological responses such as increased heart rate and avoidance behaviors.

We can say that the main differences between stress and anxiety lie in their temporal focus and in the nature of the responses.

In the following, we will explain more deeply the concept of stress and anxiety, what are their causes, symptoms, consequences, and how to distinguish them.

 

What is stress?

What can cause stress? Stress is a physiological response that occurs when a person perceives challenges, demands or threats in his or her environment. It is activated through the autonomic nervous system, which regulates the body’s automatic functions, and the endocrine system by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare the body to deal with the situation in the short term.

Stress can be acute, as a temporary reaction to a specific event, or chronic, when prolonged exposure to stressful situations can have negative effects on physical and mental health. However, the consequences of stress go beyond the physical, affecting our mental and emotional health as well.

If you are interested in knowing more about stress, we leave you a link to the psychology magazine Psicoactiva, where they explain very well how stress affects the body at a deeper psychological level.

 

Types of stress

Acute stress

It is an immediate and brief response to a specific stressful situation. For example, feeling stress before an important presentation or when going through an unexpected and stressful situation.

 

Chronic stress

It is a prolonged and persistent response to stressful situations that are maintained over a long period of time. It can be caused by difficult work situations, financial problems, family conflicts or long-term health problems, among other factors.

If stress is too intense or long-lasting, it can have negative effects on physical and mental health, including sleep problems, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, digestive problems, among others.

 

woman exercising at sunset to reduce stress and anxiety

 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural response of the body to long-term stress. It is an emotion that involves restlessness, apprehension and excessive worry about future events or uncertain situations. It tends to persist over time and sometimes has no identifiable trigger. Since many times it does not respond to something that has happened recently, but arises as a result of a situation that reminds us of another that we live with stress or trauma.

Anxiety is always linked to a perception of threat, and may appear after having experienced an alert reaction. It is associated with fear and worry.

When it becomes excessive and persistent, it significantly interferes with a person’s daily functioning and is considered a disorder. Therefore, we should explore the effects of anxiety on the body, as it helps us to understand its impact on our overall health.

 

Most common anxiety disorders in daily life

Anxiety is a constant companion in modern life and, although it does not always reach diagnostic levels, it can be very significant. Often, we find ourselves dealing with levels of anxiety that are not considered serious disorders but, cumulatively, can have a major impact on our mental health. Here we explore some of the nuances of anxiety that we experience on a day-to-day basis, but often go unnoticed:

  • Intensified everyday worries: While not reaching the extremes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), many people experience times of excessive worry about common situations and problems. These worries can haunt the mind, affecting our concentration and mood.
  • Stress in the face of uncertainty: In an ever-changing world, it is common to feel anxiety in the face of uncertainty. Doubts about the future of work, personal decisions and other aspects of life can generate a low but constant level of anxiety.
  • Self-demanding and self-critical: Many of us put pressure on ourselves to meet high expectations at work and in life in general. While not reaching the level of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), this self-demanding can cause a constant degree of anxiety.
  • Comparison on social networks: Frequent use of social networks can trigger a form of social anxiety. Comparison to the seemingly perfect lives of others can undermine our self-esteem and generate feelings of inadequacy.
  • Immediacy and multitasking: Modern life pushes us to multitask and expect quick results. This constant feeling of having to do it all can lead to performance and productivity anxiety.
  • Information overload: We are surrounded by constant information, and the pressure to stay informed can generate anxiety from overexposure to stressful news and events.
  • Burnout and blurred boundaries: Constant exhaustion and difficulty establishing boundaries between work and personal life can contribute to a sustained level of anxiety.
  • Social and performance expectations: Social and work pressures to meet certain expectations can generate anxiety in situations such as presentations, meetings or social interactions.

 

We remind you that anxiety in itself is not negative, as it can be a useful reaction in situations of real danger, preparing us to face or avoid threats. However, when anxiety becomes chronic or overwhelming, it is advisable to seek help from a mental health professional to receive a proper diagnosis and get the necessary treatment.

What is best for anxiety? Read on and we’ll tell you.

 

Symptoms and consequences of stress and anxiety

Both stress and anxiety can manifest with a variety of physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms. Many times they can be consequences of work, personal or situational stress. Their main symptoms can be:

Stress symptoms.

  • Muscle tension and body aches.
  • Fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Sleeping difficulties or insomnia.
  • Appetite changes (loss or increase of appetite).
  • headaches
  • Digestive problems, such as stomach pain or diarrhea.
  • Irritability and mood swings.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or out of control.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Low defenses due to stress

 

Symptoms of anxiety

  • Excessive worry and fear.
  • Nervousness and agitation
  • Restlessness and feeling “on edge”.
  • Palpitations or a feeling that the heart is beating fast.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Tremors or shaking.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Tightness in the chest or physical discomfort.
  • Dizziness or feeling faint.
  • Intrusive or recurrent thoughts.
  • Avoidance of situations that generate anxiety.
  • Problems falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia).

 

It is important to keep in mind that each person may experience different symptoms and to different degrees. In addition, these symptoms are not exclusive to stress or anxiety, as they may also be present in other medical conditions or psychological disorders.

Although symptoms may be similar in both genders, symptoms of anxiety and stress in women may manifest uniquely due to various factors, such as the menstrual cycle, childbearing, hormonal changes….

 

Most common consequences of stress and anxiety on the body:

Chronic stress and anxiety can have significant effects on the body and overall health, that is why we need to detect it early so that it does not become a major problem. The side effects of anxiety or stress are usually easily recognizable.

 

Physiological problems:

  • Cardiovascular problems generate an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which in the long term can increase the risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation or irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Chronic pain such as migraine or back pain, weight gain or even skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema or acne.
  • Weakened immune system: Another symptom of prolonged stress on the body can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to illness and infection, leading to more general discomfort. If you feel like you get sick too often, stress or anxiety may be one of the causes.
  • Sleep problems: Anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, which can lead to sleep deprivation and increased fatigue and irritability.
  • Emotional disorders: Chronic stress and anxiety can increase the risk of developing mood disorders, such as depression.
  • Sexual problems and cognitive problems: Chronic stress can affect sexual desire and sexual function in both men and women, and can affect concentration, memory and decision making.

 

It is important to note that each person may experience different effects on the body due to stress and anxiety, and that these effects can vary in severity. Proper management of stress and anxiety, through healthy coping techniques and professional support, is critical to reducing the negative impact on overall health and well-being. If you feel that stress or anxiety is significantly affecting your life, it is advisable to seek the support of a mental health professional.

 

10 Healthy Habits to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

What’s good for nerves and anxiety? Adopting healthy habits can be an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. Healthy living habits, eating or resting are some of the ways to improve your situation. Here are more habits that are good for anxiety or stress and help you better manage these emotions:

 

man running with surfboard while woman relaxing on the beach. Illustrates how to reduce stress and anxiety with healthy habits

 

  1. Practice relaxation techniques: take time each day to practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga or mindfulness. These practices can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety.
  2. Exercise regularly: Physical exercise releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that can improve mood and reduce stress. Find a physical activity you enjoy, such as walking, running, swimming or dancing,and do it regularly.
  3. Get enough sleep and establish a routine:Having a structured daily routine consumes foods rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Proper nutrition is a fundamental part of leading a healthy and happy life, reducing the effects of stress and anxiety. If you want more tips on healthy eating and healthy habits, feel free to read more posts like this one in the Healthy Living category of our website.
  4. Establish a routine: Having a structured daily routine can provide a sense of order and stability, which can reduce feelings of chaos and anxiety.
  5. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake: Too much caffeine can increase anxiety, and alcohol can make stress worse. Try to limit their consumption or avoid them altogether, especially if you have trouble controlling anxiety.
  6. Eat a balanced diet: Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help keep your body and mind in peak condition. Avoid skipping meals and consume foods rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Proper nutrition is a fundamental part of leading a healthy and happy life, reducing the effects of stress and anxiety. If you want more tips on healthy eating and healthy habits, feel free to read more posts like this one in the Healthy Living category of our website.
  7. Set limits: Learn to say “no” when you feel overwhelmed and need time for yourself. Setting clear boundaries on your responsibilities and commitments can reduce stress.
  8. Cultivate social relationships: Maintaining connections with friends, family and trusted people can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation.
  9. Practice self-care: Spend time on activities that make you feel good, such as reading, drawing, listening to music, taking a relaxing bath, or doing whatever you enjoy.
  10. Use dietary supplements: One of the best ways to balance the immune system is through supplements that help the immune system protect itself from external attacks. At Birm, we seek to make it easier for the user to take care of himself and with a few capsules be able to obtain the desired results, improving the immune system and the body’s energy. Click here to access our product and learn about the benefits it can bring to your body.

 

front image of the birm product with its bottle and packaging

  1. Seek professional support: If you feel that stress and anxiety are overwhelming and hindering your daily life, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. A therapist or psychologist can provide guidance and support in managing these emotions. What therapy is best for anxiety?
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of therapy that has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety. It works to identify negative and distorted thought patterns and replace them with more realistic and healthy thoughts. It also focuses on changing behaviors and developing coping skills.
  • Questions such as: What medication is best for anxiety? or what antidepressant is best for anxiety? You will need to go to a professional for these types of questions.

 

Remember that the process of reducing stress and anxiety can be gradual and it is normal to have ups and downs. Don’t be discouraged if some days are more difficult than others. The important thing is to be consistent in adopting healthy habits and remember that taking care of yourself is an essential part of mental and emotional well-being.

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