Corona virus, COVID-19, Dr. Emily Roedersheimer, Education and Newsletters, Karen Bush, NBC-HWC

Building Immunity by Managing Stress

Stress… We use this word so often that we don’t even take it seriously anymore.

Stress occurs when life’s events surpass our ability to handle them. It comes in many forms: rush hour traffic, unexpected bills, your boss yelling at you, your kids fighting, or worst yet, there’s no toilet paper to be found in central Ohio! Add the corona virus to this list and our stress levels are boiling over. During this time in history we need our immune systems to be ready for anything and one of the best ways to help with that is to decrease stress.

Why? Because believe it or not, stress lowers immunity.

Fight or Flight

The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defend the body against infection. Think of it as an army poised and ready to go to war for you if needed to prevent infections of all kinds – viruses, bacteria – and even cancer cells.  This army works best when we’re in a calm, rested state.

You’ve likely heard of the “fight or flight” response that kicks in when we’re under stress. This system is uniquely designed by our bodies to prepare us to flee or fight if we’re attacked. Now with our modern day “attacks” being more ongoing (work, bills, kids, TP, etc) we tend to stay in the fight or flight state. In preparation to fight or flee, our body shuts down the less important functions (ie, immunity) that aren’t needed in what should be a short-term stress response. Who cares about that cold virus or cancer cell if we’re about to be eaten by a tiger?! Unfortunately, with our current pace of life in America, most of us tend to stay in that fight or flight state all the time. So, we tend to get sick much more easily than our non-stressed friends (if you have any of those!)

Responding to stressors

How we handle our stress will determine the impact it will have on our immune system. Some situations cannot be changed – an ailing loved one, paying taxes – but we can change how we respond to these stressors. If we can consider stress reduction to be something we need to work on daily (like healthy eating, sleep and exercise), then we can help to change our body’s response to stress and maintain a healthy immune system. Given the right information, environment and directions, our bodies will choose healing over disease any day!

My health coach, Karen Bush, has offered some of her wisdom on how to handle stress in our lives.

From Karen Bush:

Often, we don’t even realize what symptoms of stress look like. It doesn’t have to be a significant worried or anxious feeling. It can simply be feeling unfocused with tasks, leaving things half done, going on social media too often during the day, reaching for food when you aren’t hungry or not eating enough, moodiness, procrastination and persistent fatigue. Once we see and recognize it, we can start to create change around us.

Let’s start with daily consistent practices and then move into things you can do right in the moment when you’re triggered into stress, anxiety or worry.

Consistent practices that support your health and well-being around stress should be a daily practice, not just something we reach for when we’re stressed or in a stressful situation.

Here are a few places to start:

Create a morning routine

Create a simple morning routine that starts the day out in a calm, contemplative and intentional way. Here are some examples:

    1. Drink 16 oz of water upon rising to replenish hydration after 8 hrs of loss while sleeping.
    2. Take 5 minutes to do some breathing – in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds, hold exhale for 4 seconds and repeat.
    3. Take 5 minutes to follow a guided meditation or journal. Meditations can be found on apps such as Insight Timer, Calm or Headspace.
    4. Do some sort of movement for at least 10-15 minutes to get your day started: Walking outside, doing a short yoga sequence (on YouTube with Adrienne or “Do yoga with me”), or even going up and down the stairs 3-4 times!

Set a schedule

Now that we’re all home more during this time it is more important than ever to set a schedule around what we are doing to feel more grounded. Even if you aren’t functioning at full capacity at work, set up your day with things you want to accomplish and include time for white space or down time.

    • Schedule times to do work
    • Set up times to be with kids, doing schoolwork and/or play time
    • Plan time for stress relief – breathing, exercise, meditation, prayer, alone time, time outside, mindful walks, walking outside on the grass with shoes off (grounding).
    • Really take a look at your day and take an honest assessment of what you’re spending your time focusing on. What could be contributing to stress? What you give attention to is strengthened. With that in mind, some questions to ask yourself:
      • How much time are you spending reading or watching the news?
      • How much time are you in conversation about anxiety-producing things you have no control over?
      • How often does your mind go to negative or worrying thoughts?

Make a shift

Now that you’ve taken a look at what your day looks like and what your habits may be in a day, you can make a few choices to shift to things that are healthier.

Here is a way to shift your mindset and gather some awareness around your thinking.

    • The practice of consistent breath work/meditation/prayer makes you more aware of your thinking.
    • Decide how much time you want to spend paying attention to the news and balance that out with joyful, happy activities.
    • When you catch yourself thinking in a way that produces stress, pause…take a moment to breathe.
    • Take the negative or stressful thought and shift to a thought around gratitude or appreciation.
    • Shift language:
      • Instead of anxious, breathe in CALM
      • Instead of stress, breathe in EASE
      • Instead of Bored, breathe in RESPONSIBILITY
      • Instead of Judgment, breathe in TOLERANCE
      • Instead of Anger, breathe in EASE TO COOL DOWN
      • Instead of Financial worries, breathe in ABUNDANCE/GRATITUDE
      • Instead of Lonely, breathe in CONNECTED and APPRECIATED
      • Instead of self-pity, breathe in DIGNITY

Remember that it takes time to shift behavior, so don’t expect it to happen overnight or even in 21 days! But daily practice leads to overall changes and what better time to start than now!?

To help you along these lines, Karen Bush and I are leading a free online stress support/meditation class this Wednesday, March 25, at 7 pm. Click the link to join us! We hope to see you there!

About Leaves of Life, Karen Bush, NBC-HWC, Leaves of Life Practitioners

Meet Karen Bush

Karen Bush, National Board Certified Health and Wellness coach (NBC-HWC) has the distinction of being among the first coaches in the country to be Board Certified through the
National Board of Medical Examiners, a designation that places her in the top tier of health coaches in the US. Her experience in healthcare began after receiving her Master’s degree in Speech Pathology and working in hospitals and rehabilitation centers around the country.

Realizing that she needed to be on wellness side of healthcare, she trained at Duke University’s Integrative Medicine Health Coach training program, one of the pioneering programs in health coaching. Her training involved extensive work in positive psychology, mind-body medicine, motivational interviewing and the principles of behavior change. Karen is a former health coach at the Center for Functional Medicine at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic, where she worked with an exceptional group of collaborative physician providers, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and dietitians. She obtained further certification through the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy (FMCA) a collaboration with the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM).

Karen now works in private practice and in collaboration with Dr. Emily Roedersheimer to help her patients navigate and support the lifestyle changes that are the hallmark of functional medicine. Our goal is to help each patient live their best life, achieve their goals and ultimately find success with a functional medicine approach. She blends integrative and functional medicine to provide a root cause, holistic practice that supports Dr. Emily’s personalized plan for each patient.
On any given day, you can find her rowing on the mighty Cuyahoga river, biking, practicing and teaching yoga, hiking with her husband and dog Jackson, traveling, and cooking plant based meals for her family.

Karen provides virtual coaching sessions as part of the practice, to support you in living your happiest and healthiest life.

Karen says: “In functional medicine we look for the root cause.  Oftentimes, stress is an underlying and not always obvious trigger to symptoms and health issues.  Our awareness around how stress affects our bodies on a deeper level is often pretty low.  One of the tools I use as a Functional Medicine Health Coach is something called HeartMath.  At its most basic level it uses breathing exercises that combine awareness of a heart centered breath and gratitude.  It is a way of slowing down the reaction to stress and allowing it to dissipate so it doesn’t affect our body adversely.  To add more to the breath work, HeartMath also has a simple biofeedback device called Inner Balance,  that can help the user identify areas of stress and how stress feels in the body.  When stress is present chronically, even in small amounts, we tend to habituate to it and after time we don’t notice it at all, but it is still very present.  If you think that stress is an underlying issue for you, maybe considering this as a tool to learn how to respond differently might be a key to your well-being.  Find out more at Heartmath.com or reach out to Karen Bush, health coach at clinicalcoordinator@balancedlivingfm.com

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