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How Emotions Affect UR Immunity

Dr Roshan Jain

Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru

5 min read

Our mind and body are eternally interlinked. Ailments of the body can manifest as psychological problems. Likewise, matters of mind like stress and anxiety can affect the functioning of the body and its responses, including immunity.

Emotion is derived from the Latin term ’emovere’, which means to stir up, to agitate and to excite. Emotions can be broadly grouped into two categories – positive and negative. Extroverts tend to be more socially active and are better at expressing their feelings. On the other hand, introverts tend to be withdrawn; hence, they conceal their emotions.

People with good emotional health are aware of their feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. They have learned to cope with the stress and problems in a healthy way. It is well established that denial or suppression of emotions is not an effective strategy to deal with emotions. In fact, it makes it worse. It is therefore essential that we acknowledge our feelings, reflect on its nature, and if unhelpful then put them aside as much as possible.

The Covid-19 pandemic has unleashed an epidemic of emotional reactions such as fear, anxiety, sadness and stress. While many will experience transient anxiety, some will be pushed over the cusp, wherein their unremitting concern will turn into an ailment, or medical condition called anxiety disorder.

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Impact Of Emotional Problems On Health

During emotional crisis one may ignore self-care, eat unhealthy diet, avoid activities or exercise. They may resort to maladaptive coping with alcohol, tobacco or tranquilising medicine (sleeping/calming pills). This has a negative bearing on general health. And when stress or stressors persist over a prolonged period, our ‘fight or flight response’ remains activated and that’s not good for our health as it releases excessive stress hormones, and can wear us down physically and psychologically.

Well established consequences of prolonged or recurring stress include high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach ulcer, as well as psychological problems like anxiety, depression and addiction. Unremitting stress can also over-activate the immune system – worsen arthritis and psoriasis, acne and even trigger asthma attacks. Besides, it can make you vulnerable to infections and allergies.

There is evidence that an effectively managed stress and emotions can have a positive impact on the nervous and immune system. For instance, relaxation activities such as massage, humour, listening to music, reading can have a benefit on overall health and reduces stress hormones in the body.

If feelings of sadness, stress, or anxiety are causing problems, keeping these feelings inside can make you feel worse.

Express UR feelings in an appropriate way

If feelings of sadness, stress, or anxiety are causing problems, keeping these feelings inside can make you feel worse. They say “a problem shared is a problem halved”, which means when in difficulty it is useful to talk to someone about it. In doing so, you share the burden, move onto solutions and in the process, learn about yourself.

It’s is essential to deal with negative feelings, but also focus on the positive things in UR life. It will help if you also find ways to let go of things in UR life that are unhelpful while making time for things you enjoy.

So, it’s okay to let UR loved ones know when something is bothering you. Moreover, keep in mind that UR family and friends may not always be able to help you deal with your feelings appropriately. At these times, try asking someone outside the situation for help. A professional can provide independent, timely and objective advise/support that might help you bounce back as well as improve your emotional health.

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Other Strategies For A Balanced Life
  • Even in difficulties, make an effort to resume and maintain a healthy and active routine with balanced diet and exercise (30 – 45 mins of moderate-intensity for 4-5 days per week)
  • To manage our reactions, we need to acknowledge, understand and accept our emotions. In doing so, we shall cope better and come out of this crisis being more resourceful, rejuvenated and rested. Meditation is an effective and time tested strategy to bring about emotional awareness and mind-body harmony.
  • Take care of UR body by having enough sleep – ideally 7-8 hours per night. Sleep is essential for rest and recovery from day to day assaults on our body and mind.
  • Avoid abuse of alcohol or drugs as they can worsen UR health, UR anxiety and relationship problems.
  • Remember, to be grateful for what you have, think positive, curb negative thoughts where possible, smile more often, and do things to keep yourself positive and happy.
  • A consistently balanced life is a healthier life.
Developing Resilience

Resilience is the ability to face stress and challenges and to bounce back and recover. To develop resilience, one ought to take up and face challenges and reflect on the difficulties while finding solutions. In doing so, one learns to improvise and move from problems to a solution orientation. Other methods include mobilising social support, keeping a positive view of yourself, accepting change, and keeping things in perspective. An emotionally stable person is thus at a much better position to develop resilience.

Emotional awareness is not just crucial for a peaceful, calm and healthy life and healthy relationships, but it also has a positive impact on UR immunity. As a lack of it can contribute to building up of stress, which compromises immunity and makes one susceptible to infection and other ailments.