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How Stress Affects Your Immune System

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How Stress Affects Your Immune System

We’ve all been there! Work is asking for too much at once, your family needs you, and you are stretching yourself too thin. You’re stressed. For some of us, this happens more often than for others. We all react differently to stress, and the way stress affects us can be different. However, the one thing that stress does to everyone is have an effect on your immune system.  

Stress occurs when certain events surpass your ability to cope, causing your body to produce greater levels of the stress hormone cortisol.1 In small amounts, cortisol can boost your immunity by limiting inflammation, but overtime your body can get used to having too much cortisol, opening the door for more inflammation.1 Stress also decreases the body’s lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help fight off infection.1 When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens (toxins in the body) is reduced, making us more susceptible to infections.2  

High stress levels can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking and smoking, further damaging our immune systems. Stress is linked to headaches, infectious illness like the flu, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, and gastric ulcers.2 Stress can also lead to anxiety and depression, impacting both our physical well-being and mental wellness.  

How AFSPA Can Help 

At AFSPA, our ongoing theme continues to be “Mental Wellness Leads to Better Physical Health.” If you can keep your stress in check, you have a better chance of having stronger physical health. We know keeping stress levels down is difficult, so we are here to help.  

If you’re currently struggling with the stresses of working from home, check out our blog, Coping with Stress While Working from Home.  

Foreign Service Benefit Plan (FSBP) members have access to multiple Mental Wellness Programs that can help you deal with the different stressors in your life.  

AbleTo is a web-based video conferencing program designed to address the unique emotional and behavioral health needs to individuals learning to live with different conditions or learning to cope with major life events such as losing a loved one or having a baby. If you’re interested in AbleTo please call 866-287-1802 or visit AbleTo’s website at This program is available to members in the 50 United States.  

The Health Coaching Program provides you the opportunity to work one-on-one with a Health Coach to improve your health by working on your stress management. You talk with your Health Coach over the telephone through conveniently scheduled appointments and create a plan that is right for you to meet your health goals. To enroll in a program, contact a Health Coach at 855-406-5122 or 479-973-7168. Coaches are available Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m.– 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) and Friday from 8:00 a.m.– 6:00 p.m. ET. You may also enroll online at? (passcode: FSBP). 

Our Digital Coach Programs offer health education, a wellness webinar on minding your stress with mindfulness, and wellness goal support. To get started log into the Aetna secure member website, click “Stay Healthy,” and select “Discover a Healthier You.”  

Our myStrength™?program provides you evidence-based resources to help overcome stress-induced obstacles of depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. If you would like to enroll in the program visit, select “Sign-up,” enter the access code “FSBP” and complete the myStrength™ sign-up process with a brief Wellness Assessment and personal profile. 

Our FSBP members in the 50 United States have access to telehealth consultations through Teladoc™. Through this service you can see a behavioral health provider for depression, anxiety, and stress. To register for Teladoc™ visit or call 855-Teladoc (855-835-2362) for more information. 

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