Stress-relieving Tips To Fight Winter-time Viruses

Breaking News! Look for Dr. Rita appearing LIVE THIS MORNING 1/8/13 at 11:05am ET on 700 Club Interactive, talking about the mind-body-spirit connection and how stress becomes physical!

When I was young, my poor mother was sick just about every New Year's Eve. While the rest of the family watched the ball come down in Times Square with our party hats and noise makers, Mom was in bed with the flu, racked with muscle aches, chest congestion, and high fevers.

Now that I’m a physician, wife, and mother, I understand why Mom was sick every year. One reason is viruses are spread more readily in cold weather months. However, another big factor is that we're under more stress during the holidays, and that added stress decreases our ability to fight off infections.

One way stress impacts your health is through its effect on your immune system. When you're under stress, you release more cortisol, which is basically like a steroid. Probably, your doctor has given you steroids at some point to decrease inflammation from infections, allergic reactions, and other problems, like herniated discs. Basically, steroids dampen your immune response, and that means your chronically stressed-out, high cortisol state makes you more susceptible to illness.

Have you ever had "shingles"? It's an extremely painful, burning rash caused by the varicella zoster or "chicken pox" virus, and it's a perfect example of how stress lowers the immune system and allows illness. Once you get over your initial infection with chicken pox, usually when you're young, the virus doesn't completely go away. It camps out in the nerves that come out of your spine. As long as your immune system is healthy, your body keeps the virus in check from then on. But when your immune system is weakened by age, stress, or other illness, it stops keeping the virus in check. The virus is then able to multiply in the nerve endings and eventually erupts on the skin as the excruciatingly painful, blistery rash.

Numerous other conditions are aggravated by stress, as well. The list is almost too long to mention, but so you get an idea of where I'm coming from, I'll mention a few illnesses that I've seen in recent months in my medical practice: Pityriasis Rosea (a skin rash caused by stress), stress urticaria (hives caused by stress), spine pain, migraines, abdominal pain, headaches, muscle aches, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, pelvic pain, high blood pressure, weight fluctuations, choking sensations, and aggravation of hot flashes. And that's just in recent months!

Stress also affects your physical body through your posture. Because your stressed-out subconscious mind feels emotions like fear, anger, and worry, you tend to tense up your muscles without even realizing it. Just think about where your shoulders are right now. Are they hiked up, practically next to your ears, or are they resting low down and relaxed, the way they should be?

Your subconscious mind also contributes to illness-producing stress in other ways. For example, many people believe lies about themselves which they internalized during childhood (i.e. they believe they're "[bad, stupid, guilty, dirty, responsible, unwanted, unloved, unworthy, invisible, etc.]). And believing those lies lead to increased physical tension when new events occur to trigger those old lies. Other people harbor a lack of forgiveness toward others who hurt them----or they harbor resentment toward God because they perceive Him to be "absent" when He isn't, really---or they are unforgiving toward themselves---or they're running from their own sin. I cover these subjects extensively in my new book, Radical Well-being--A Biblical Guide to Overcoming Pain, Illness, and Addictions.

Don’t believe the Accuser of the Brethren when he tells you these lies or causes you to hang onto anger or hide your past sin in shame. He plays on your feelings of being “not good enough” and gets you to try to “works” your way into correcting that. “If only I do X, Y, and Z, and make everybody happy, I’ll finally feel like a worthwhile person.”

Instead of believing lies, choose to believe the truth--the one absolute Truth that God gave us in Scripture. Believing God's Word will help you feel [and exude] real peace and joy. Feeling that way is not only good for your body and your ability to fight off infections, but it also makes you "contagious" in a GOOD way! It makes your unsaved family and friends want what you have—good health and Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.


For more information about how stress affects the physical body—and how to overcome this stress with biblical truth, read Dr. Rita Hancock’s new book, Radical Well-being: A Biblical Guide to Overcoming Pain, Illness, and Addictions (Siloam, January 8, 2013) or visit Also, follow Dr. Rita on Twitter (@RitaHancockMD) and on Facebook at And for Dr. Rita’s biblical weight loss advice, visit And look for Dr. Rita TODAY, 1/8/13 on "700 Club Interactive" via Internet, at 11:05 ET, using the link, and later this month on the ABC Family network.

The Christian Post