How stress affects your immune system

News, Student Life

As the fall semester is coming to an end and the weather is beginning to change, two things are on most students’ minds: finals and getting sick.

In a 2015 survey from the American College Health Association, 57.7 percent of students reported experiencing “overwhelming anxiety” at least once in the last year. In a 2016 survey from MentalHealth.net, 31 percent said this stress was caused by finals or midterms, followed job future and workload.

We all know that stress is common in college, and finals only make it worse, but can it really affect your health?

Although we normally think of stress as a bad thing, there is such a thing as good stress, with an example being a deadline. When your mind is under a short-lived or small amount of stress, it releases hormones to make you more alert and give you more energy to overcome the current obstacle. Many times, good stress is something you feel you have control over and is a motivation tool.

A problem arises when someone experiences chronic stress or when the stress is accompanied by feelings of helplessness.

According to adrenalfatiguesolution.com, chronic stress can cause anxiety, depression and sleep problems. Bad stress can also lower the immune system’s ability to fight off disease, making it easier for someone to catch something while under stress. This happens because the body is constantly in a fight or flight stage, and, due to the perceived threat, your immune system (as well as many other systems in your body) are unable to return to normal.

Although it would be nice to just ignore it, there isn’t getting around the reality of finals or the stress that comes with it, but there are many ways to cope with the stress. A few of them are:

  • Keeping track of your assignments and upcoming tests with a planner or journal.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Taking a second to breathe if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It may even help to walk away from an assignment or what you’re studying for a few minutes.
  • Avoiding procrastination.
  • Understanding your limits.

While avoiding stress, it’s also important to keep your body and immune system up and running. A few tips on keeping your body healthy are:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising frequently.
  • Taking a daily vitamin.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Washing your hands frequently.
  • Not sharing food or drink with others.

Of course, these are only tips and may not work for everyone. If you experience chronic stress or keep getting sick, you should always visit a doctor.

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