Resisting illness: strengthening your immune system

Tips for improving our resilience during stressful times to strengthen the immune system and avoid getting sick.

Stress impairs our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. Beyond handwashing and minimizing exposure, managing stress is vitally important to resisting illness.

We’re living in some stressful times.  Unexpected global events, market unrest, and everyday work and family stress can make many of us feel vulnerable and uncertain. 

There’s a direct link between stress and the resilience of our immune system. Stress increases sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system activity, which strains the body, decreases resilience to illness, and hinders our recovery from illness.

The good news? There is a whole lot that we can do to boost our immunity and minimize our chances of getting sick – beyond washing our hands and limiting our exposure.  Read on to learn how to build your resilience to stress and how to support your recovery and immune system to have the best chance at resisting illness.

Prioritize Sleep

Prioritizing sleep is the most important thing you can do to strengthen your immune system and speed your recovery if you do get sick.

Some tips for getting good rest include:

  • Setting a consistent bedtime. Going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day (even on the weekends) helps to balance your circadian rhythms and supports recovery.
  • Watch sunset and go outside as early as you can in the morning. Even brief exposure to the setting sun and early morning light can help balance your sleep and wake cycles.
  • Don’t drink liquids for at least an hour before bed, for obvious reasons.
  • Sleep in a dark room. If you live in a city, using blackout shades or an eye mask can help.
  • Avoid noise disturbances. If you live in the city or in a louder environment, a white noise machine may help.
  • Avoid blue light from screens for at least an hour before bed. Blue light is stimulating and sometimes, so is the content we’re consuming. 
  • Avoid caffeine and stimulants, particularly after noon.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. While many believe it helps make them sleep, it is known to disrupt sleep quality and contribute to waking up in the middle of the night.
  • Sleep in a cool environment. A cold room helps facilitate deep sleep and you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night if you’re too hot.

Focus on what you can control

Managing anxiety, worry, or restlessness is critical when we’re faced with uncertain and overwhelming situations. This restlessness comes from spending our limited energy and attention focusing on things around us that we can’t control.  

The best way to manage anxiety is to put the anxious restless energy to good use. Instead of focusing on things out of our control, spend that time on all the things we can control – like eating well, exercising, deep breathing, practicing mindfulness, or taking a walk outside. 

Sometimes, stress makes us feel panicked. Practicing intentional deep breathing is a very effective strategy to rapidly control stress and support your recovery.

Despite the fact that we all breathe, practicing intentional breathing can be challenging, especially when we are stressed. 

Here’s how to get started

  1. Purse your lips as if you are drinking through a straw.
  2. Take a slow, controlled breath through your pursed lips until your lungs are full. Pause for a moment before you begin to exhale. 
  3. Exhale slowly, taking a few seconds longer to exhale than you did to inhale.
  4. When your lungs are empty, pause for a moment before repeating.  

There are other strategies that jumpstart recovery in the same way as breathing and restful sleep by improving the balance of the nervous system and resilience in the face of anxiety and stress:

  • Soothing touch from a loved one
  • Soothing music
  • Yoga and meditation 

Apollo can be used to manage stress and promote sleep

If you have an Apollo, you can use it to recover from stress during the day and to improve your sleep. Apollo’s gentle waves of vibration signal safety to the body and mind and activate the parasympathetic (rest and digest) branch of your nervous system, just like deep breathing and soothing touch. 

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your Apollo:

  1. To manage stress throughout the day, use the Clear and Focused and Social and Open modes to help your body recover from stress, for better energy and focus at work, school, or in social situations.
  2. If you’re feeling physically or mentally worn out, use the Rebuild and Recover mode to accelerate your body’s repair from stress.
  3. Apollo’s Meditation and Relax and Unwind modes can be used to reduce stress and help your body unwind and restore itself after stress. Both modes can also facilitate relaxation before bed.
  4. You can use Apollo’s Sleep and Renew setting to help you fall asleep faster. You can also use this mode to help you return to sleep if your sleep is disturbed or you wake up unintentionally.

Chronic stress and anxiety can leave us feeling tired, irritable, unhappy and distracted – and ultimately can compromise our immune system. Apollo and strategies like it, such as music, meditation, mindful breathing, regular exercise, and therapeutic touch offer opportunities to strengthen our resilience to stress and illness.

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