How do you react when someone says you are being defensive? Perhaps you deny it and prove the point.
In our everyday lives, acting defensively is often an indication of weakness. However there is a context in which a strong defense can be quite healthy, protecting you from the enemies all around and within you: Your immune system. The reason you are not always sick is that your body has a powerful self-defense force known as the immune system. Imagine having your own personal police force capable of protecting you from most potential dangers-- even before you are aware of them. On duty all year, this force employs a limitless pool of "beat cops" that patrol your body. And with minimal investment, the system will remain operational for a lifetime.
The nerve-center of the immune system is the thymus gland (located behind your breastbone), which "instructs" certain white blood cells (called T-cells) to recognize germ invaders such as, bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells and atherosclerotic plaque cells. The T-cells then respond to the threat, neutralizing the destructive agents. Moreover, some of these T-cells control other white cells that make a variety of protein and polypeptide chemical weapons such as, antibodies.
Other members of the force include bone marrow (which produces some of these white blood cells), the spleen, and lymph nodes and ducts. In general, these components comprise that remarkable defense force known as your immune system. It is remarkable but not impervious.
Ordinarily, the immune system serves us admirably. When it does malfunction, it is usually due to one good reason or another. The immune system can be compromised by many things-- from an ordinary cold to deadly cancers; and of course, AIDS. Although many such threats to the immune system emanate from micro-organisms and are therefore difficult to predict and control, there are those which originate from emotional discomforts that manifest psycho-physiological symptoms. And these, by comparison, need to be identified and controlled, if a healthy immune system is to be maintained.
Among the latter, quite possibly the most severe threat is from chronic, unrelieved stress. There is some truth to the old wives-tale expression, "worry breeds tension and tension breeds disease." On-going stress incurred from personal relationships, the loss of employment or threat of such circumstance, the loss of a loved one, divorce, legal and financial difficulties can seriously weaken your immune system. Stress often triggers chemical changes in your body, stimulating the release of neuropeptides which adversely affect the operation of your immune system. In addition to locating and destroying undesired invaders, your immune system, under stress, makes "errors" by instructing the antibodies to identify and destroy some of your own cells, which are not defective, as if they were the enemy; sort of a "Robocop" gone wild!
Another prominent contributor to a weakened immune system is depression. Typically, depressed individuals with affected immune systems run a lot of negative internal dialogue, pessimistically evaluating various aspects of their lives. This negatively affects their appetite, sleep patterns and exercise regime, all essential to a healthy body. Furthermore, rapid and excessive weight loss, through crash dieting or starvation can deprive your body of vital nutrients required for maintaining a healthy immune system. Quite a price to pay for a choice of method intended to improve some aspect of your health (which more often than not fails to produce those desired changes!). So how can you keep your security force on its toes?

  • 1- Reduce stress. Telling yourself, "Sure, with all the pressure on me, that's easier said than done", will only comfort you in your belief that excessive stress is necessary. Unfortunately, your immune system does not understand rationalization. Learn relaxation and meditation techniques. If necessary, pursue professional assistance in this endeavor.
  • 2- Look on the brighter side. Begin by tuning in to your negative dialogue, this time altering the tone of voice, rhythm, and description of your experiences. When viewing life as a half-empty glass, try turning it upside down...and smile inwardly.
  • 3- Eat sensibly. Avoid crash diets that promise sudden weight loss but fail to warn you of the unpleasant consequences.

Improve the performance of your immune system by being less offensive to your defensive self.