Here's How Stress Can Make You Sick

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
We can't help it. We're humans, and we get stressed. But the way we deal with it could either help us stay healthy this cold season, or — as this new Ted Ed video explains — leave us vulnerable to some nasty bugs.

As we've written before, stress isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as you're able to calm down relatively quickly. Our stress responses evolved as a part of the fight-or-flight instinct, meaning they're actually supposed to be helpful. But when stress or anxiety is chronic, that constant heightened state is pretty hard on our bodies.

For one thing, when your brain senses you're stressed, it sends out a kind of emergency alarm to other systems in your body. And one of those — your immune system — can really take a beating when this happens. The video explains that when you first get anxious, your immune system steps up to the plate to keep out potential intruders and help you feel better if you do get sick. But as time goes on, that higher level of immune activity is more and more difficult to sustain. And eventually, your poor immune system becomes exhausted. That leaves you more vulnerable to whatever illness or infection comes along. And it doesn't help that being sick and having to take time off can stress us out even more.

So while it's unreasonable to think you can keep stress away, always and forever, it's a good idea to begin to notice yourself getting stressed and to find productive ways of processing those signals. (May we suggest some beginner meditation?) That way, those anxious feelings will take their cue to do their job — and then leave you alone (and healthy).
Video: Via YouTube.

More from Mind

As told to Amelia Harnish I never imagined I’d be a person who left college the same day I arrived. For me, venturing off to school had high stakes. ...
No one goes through life trying to be a horrible person. But sometimes, it's a challenge to go that extra mile (or even just a few steps) out of your way...
Living with anxiety can feel like a constant battle. You have to stay alert to catch anxiety creeping up on you, and it can turn into an all-day fight to ...
(Paid Content) Taking short breaks during the workday can bring your sanity back to earth. Of course, they have a calming effect, but did you know breaks ...
We explore the unconscious messages a voice can give off and why snap judgments can be harmful, even if they're innocent
It's not always easy to predict how much you're going to drink when you go out — or how drunk you'll actually get. And according to a new study, your ...
This story was originally published on May 19, 2016. A few years ago, I called my dad for one of our weekly chats — but he wasn’t happy to hear from me...
(Paid Content) Moods are fickle things. You can be going about your day in a happy, productive, and calm manner, and boom — everything changes. And ...
As much as it sucks, anxiety doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Without a little bit of it, you wouldn’t make sure to show up on time to that job interview or...
This story was originally published on May 19, 2016. I am six years old, in the first grade girls’ bathroom with my friend. We are washing our hands. ...
This story was originally published on Jul. 19, 2016. Several months ago, a woman I’m very close to checked herself into a hospital because she’d been ...
This article was originally published on May 27, 2015. Now that pot legislation is making its way across the country, it's time for a refresher on the ...
Depression is one of the most common mental-health issues in the United States, and it affects roughly twice as many women as men. Yet new research ...
On social media, it's easy to catch all sorts of digital diseases, such as FOMO, internet addiction, and anxiety. Facebook and Instagram-wary researchers...