Simple Tips to Help you Care for your Immune System

Simple Tips to Help you Care for your Immune System

Strategies to Combat Stress and Boost Well-Being - By Laura Parr

Reading time: 3 minutes

Do you sometimes feel yourself being overwhelmed by stress? As a yoga educator and therapist, I’ve noticed that being stressed and burned out is often the norm. Live like this for a while and you might compromise your immune system, opening yourself up to the potential for developing an autoimmune disease or immunodeficiency.

But don't fret. There are some simple actions you can take to de-stress, and they're neither expensive nor time-consuming. They're really rather nice.

What exactly is the immune system?

Your immune system protects your cells and defends your body against infection. It's made up of a complex collection of organs and cells that work together. However, as you age, your immune system naturally loses its potency, and that's why aging is linked to a higher risk of serious infection, and higher rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

One important part of your immune system is your T-cells, which develop in bone marrow. Specially designed to fight foreign substances that enter your body, they circulate within your system, destroying infected cells as they find them. You can keep your T cells healthy by making good lifestyle decisions.

Make healthy decisions most of the time

No one's perfect, so don't beat yourself up when you get it wrong. But try to implement most of these healthy lifestyle choices into your life most of the time to care for your immune system in the best way possible.

  • Don't smoke
  • Add fresh fruit and vegetables to every meal
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Rest well
  • Minimise the stresses in your life

Chronic stress limits your T-cells’ ability to multiply, putting your body at more risk of infection and chronic disease in later life. Thankfully, there are things you can do about this.

So make a bit of time for yourself, pour a cup of herbal tea, and read on. Then choose one or two of the following ideas and dedicate five or ten minutes most days to them. You might be surprised by the results!

1. Practice yoga nidra

Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is a simple technique that involves lying comfortably while somebody guides your awareness to the different parts of your body. It typically also involves breath awareness and visualisations, and it helps reduce stress levels. There are plenty of free offerings on the internet and on various apps, so find a voice that resonates with you, lie down, close your eyes and sleep—yoga style.


2. Focus on your out-breath

Lengthening your out-breath against your in-breath has a natural calming effect on your nervous system. One way to do this is to count. You could, for example, breathe in for a count of six and out for 12. But the numbers aren't important here. Some people find it stressful to count or focus too much on their breath.

If you're one of those people, the best way to fully utilise your diaphragm as you breathe—and by default to lengthen your exhalation—is to do makarasana or crocodile pose. This involves lying on your belly and resting your forehead on your hands.

Widen your legs and point your toes out to the sides if possible (bolster your ankles if that position is uncomfortable). It’s practically impossible to make shallow breaths in this position. Just try it! Stay for five minutes or so, focusing on the sensation of your belly moving against the floor.

3. Relax your belly

Are you a stomach gripper? Many of us are. You might never have noticed it but ask yourself now: Am I holding my belly? Can I relax it? If you answer yes to either of those questions, you may have developed this tension-holding pattern in response to the stressors of everyday life.

Reminding yourself at regular intervals throughout the day will help you release this habit. “Release your belly” is something I say to my students all the time. But really, I’m talking to myself.

4. Get moving

If you've tried all of these quiet practices but your mind is still racing, it might be that you're asking too much of yourself. I see this a lot in my students. Many people find it impossible to lie still. Their nervous systems are simply too overloaded. Don't worry. But don't turn to high-intensity training or a power yoga routine to help.

While these disciplines can be wonderful for your physical health, for your nervous system, you need something more calming. Try a gentle yoga class or go swimming instead. Choose an activity that keeps you moving mindfully. And you can see it as an excellent opportunity to get to know yourself better.

Stress is an inevitable part of life, so you can't avoid it completely. But by learning some tools to help you deal with stress, you’ll be doing your immune system a big favour.


Laura Parr

Laura Parr is a yoga teacher and therapist based in Central Portugal. She writes the Substack, Learning to Listen.