From 1982 to 1992, psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and immunologist Ronald Glaser studied the role of stress on medical students. They discovered that students’ immunity was compromised during testing and examination times. They had fewer natural killer cells that are responsible for fighting tumors and viruses, and they stopped producing immunity-boosting gamma interferon.
The point is stress can have negative impacts on your immune system, so it is important to learn how you can elicit a relaxation response during times of high stress, such as a pandemic. With that in mind, here are some ways for you to regulate your nervous system.
Explore moderate-to-intense forms of movement: You can try jogging, intuitive dancing, or jumping on a trampoline. There are also meditative forms of movement such as yoga, tai chi, or qi gong. Endless courses are available online, but you may want to join a group that meets live to increase your feelings of connection.
Explore an electronic sabbath: Your nervous system becomes overstimulated from notifications and multitasking. Aim to put your phone away at least an hour before bedtime, and perhaps for 2-3 hours during the day.
Seek sunshine and nature: The outdoors offers you healing through serotonin-producing sunshine, mineral-rich soil, and oxygen-producing plants. Low levels of serotonin can affect your mood and are associated with depression. In fact, studies attribute the relationship between psychiatric symptoms and seasonal variations in sunlight to changes in serotonin levels. Another study found that spending time in a forest led to decreases in blood pressure, serum cortisol levels, and urinary adrenaline.
Spend time with pets and loved ones: Relationships with pets and loved ones can help you experience the most beautiful aspects of being human—love, joy, and fulfillment. It’s tricky to find the time, but with intention, you can carve out space for those who matter.
Explore activities that make you lose track of time: This can be activities such as reading, painting, or watching a movie. Excuse yourself from your to-do list, and let yourself spend some time without an agenda.
Socialize: Consider starting a book club, spiritual group study, or virtual game night. Keep in touch with old friends and develop new relationships with people who share similar interests as you.
Develop your spiritual practice: Meditation, Reiki healing, journaling, and prayer are tools to connect with the love and light that is your truest essence. With consistency, you will build a reserve of faith and hope.