The following is an excerpt from Crochet Saved My Life. It explains how stress damages the immune system and how crochet de-stresses the body to prevent this problem. Buy your copy of Crochet Saved My Life today!
Stress wreaks havoc on the immune system. To make matters worse, when we are stressed out we often make poor choices in terms of diet, exercise and getting enough sleep and this weakens the immune system even further. The weaker the immune system, the more prone we are to getting a diverse array of illnesses from the common cold to deadly infections and heart disease.
The main thing that you need to know to understand the effect of stress on the immune system is that chronic stress can increase cortisol levels in the human body. Cortisol is a hormone, sometimes called “the stress hormone”, that has a direct relationship to the body’s immune function. Cortisol gets released in higher levels when the body is under stress. The evolutionary function of this is what we know as the “fight or flight” response, which can help save us in situations of immediate potential harm. However, if your fight or flight response is constantly turned on then your body begins to break down. High levels of cortisol can lead to problems with glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation and inflammation in the body. It can also lead to significantly lowered immunity, putting you at risk for any number of different health problems.
One of the key ways to manage stress levels is to learn how to induce what is called “the relaxation response” in your body. In a healthy body this is the state that naturally follows the “fight or flight response.” Basically, once you are out of harm’s way, your body relaxes and goes back to normal, allowing it to properly function despite the momentary experience of stress. In people whose lives are filled with chronic stress, the relaxation response never comes and the body and immune system break down. The positive thing about this is that there are numerous things that you can do to intentionally induce the relaxation response in order to heal and restore your body. Meditation, journaling, exercise, breathing exercises and yoga are common methods that people use to restore their sense of relaxation. A repetitive hobby like crochet is another option.
In the same way that learning to reduce stress in the body can help in dealing with asthma, learning to reduce both physical and emotional stress can help reduce negative impacts on your immune system. This improves your chances for better overall health. And yes, there is at least one study out there that supports this. Anndee Hochman wrote in a 2004 Time Health Inc. article about a study done by Gene D. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D. that followed a group of people for a year, half of whom were involved in creative pursuits like taking painting and jewelry-making classes, and half who were not. The study found that after one year “the art students logged fewer visits to the doctor, took fewer prescription drugs, reported better morale and spent more time socializing”.
Cohen argued that “creativity is a part of being human, and it has profound implications for our health.” There may be many reasons for this. It may be true that there’s a profound need inside of us to be creative and that doing so boosts the immune system. Or you may believe that being creative just takes your mind off of your problems so that you aren’t so focused on going to the doctor every time that you get the sniffles. Either way, the research indicates that doing creative things, like crochet, will make you feel less stressed and generally healthier.
This post is part of a ten day series of crochet health articles.