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It’s more than just a celebration of the end of the summer season. Labor Day — which became a holiday in the 1800s — was created as a celebration of the American worker. Today, it’s a long weekend that gives many of us a much-needed break before the start of a new, busy fall season. And it turns out that rest and relaxation are very important for the optimal functioning of our immune system. If you need a reason to put your feet up and take a break this coming Labor Day, here’s what you need to know about the connection between relaxation and your body’s natural immunity.

Why Relaxation is Important for Your Immune Health

Your immune system is a complex web of systems and processes designed to ward off disease and infection, and it’s under constant stress thanks to our modern lifestyles. That stress keeps your immune system always “on,” and over time, an immune system that’s not given the chance to wind down, relax, and return to a state of balance has an increasingly hard time responding to bacteria, viruses, and germs.

“Stress occurs when life events surpass your abilities to cope,” explains the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic. “It causes your body to produce greater levels of the stress hormone cortisol.” Constantly high cortisol levels tax your immune system and cause chronic inflammation, which weakens your immunity and also increases your risks of numerous chronic diseases linked with inflammation (prominent examples include diabetes, cancer, and digestive issues).

And we’re not just talking about psychological stress, like work stress or juggling a chaotic family schedule. We also stress and overwork our immune system by:

  • Being plugged into work, social media, and technology 24/7
  • Eating unhealthy foods
  • Exposing ourselves to environmental toxins, such as poor air quality in urban environments
  • Skipping on immune-boosting supplements, including BioPro-Plus 500

Stress also has an immediate impact on your daily immune function. Lack of rest and relaxation can “[decrease] the body’s lymphocytes — the white blood cells that help fight off infection,” warns the clinic. “The lower your lymphocyte level, the more at risk you are for viruses, including the common cold and cold sores. In the long-term, sustained, high levels of inflammation point to an overworked, over-tired immune system that can’t properly protect you.”

In other words, failure to properly give your body rest and relaxation — like kicking back and chilling on the Labor Day long weekend — slowly weakens your immune system so it can’t properly respond to actual threats coming your way.

Studies show that relaxing can help reverse this. For instance, in one review of numerous studies, researchers found that mindfulness and meditation helped to improve “specific markers of inflammation, cell-mediated immunity, and biological aging.”

This Labor Day, embrace the immune-boosting, anti-aging, rejuvenating aspects of rest and relaxation with the following relaxation strategies.

How to Relax and Rebalance Your Immune System

  • Practice mindfulness and meditation for 10-30 minutes a day
  • Take a walk in nature, with numerous studies showing that exposure to sunlight, fresh air, and greenery having a profound impact on our cortisol levels, mental anxiety and stress, and general mental health
  • Exercising daily, which triggers feel-good endorphins and also helps improve immune cell functioning and white blood cell circulation
  • Unplugging from stressors, including turning off your work laptop and cell phone when you get home from work
  • Creating a calming environment using essential oils, calming music, and dim lighting
  • Engaging in a calming evening routine to help your body unwind and truly rest at night, such as a warm evening bath or reading a calm book in bed
  • Eating calming foods that are shown to support healing and cellular rejuvenation — namely fresh fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, inflammation-fighting foods like fish, and soothing spices like turmeric and ginger (we’ll share delicious meal ideas made with calming ingredients later this week!)
  • Use deep breathing exercises to calm your immune system and central nervous system anytime you feel stressed or anxious