Stressed out? Well then you need to either relax or take cover! Turns out that stressed out people are more prone to coming down with colds and the flu. According to Psychology Today, over 40 million North Americans will contract the flu this season, but that’s nothing compared to the number of common colds that’ll crop up – over a billion! So, are you a likely candidate?

Well, that depends on your lifestyle. Evidence suggests that the likelihood we’ll get infected is directly related to the amount of stress in our lives. People who endure large amounts of long-term stress are more likely to come down with a cold or the flu, and suffer more from their symptoms. Dr. Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University specializes in researching the way stress affects human health. In a series of experiments, he and his colleagues surveyed over 200 volunteers about stress factors in their lives, then infected them with a cold virus. The researchers then watched how the volunteers’ immune systems fought off the infection.

Cohen found that the most damaging kinds of stress are caused by long-term problems — like a bad job or a rocky marriage. People suffering from such stress were twice as likely to come down with a cold. The longer a stressful event had been going on, the more severe the infection. Rsearchers in Germany have shown that even short-term stress, such as studying for a big college exam or preparing a business presentation, can reduce the amount of salivary Immunoglobulin A - a chemical that serves as the body’s first line of defense against infection.

So what does this mean for you? Well, no one’s suggesting that Aromatherapy and yoga will keep you healthy this winter. It goes beyond that. You have to prioritize your life so stress isn’t an overall factor. That could mean postponing a class, delegating a project at work or simply carving 30 minutes out of your day to enjoy a good book. If you do wind up getting sick, the National Institutes of Health say the most effective treatment includes plenty of bed rest, drinking lots of fluids and taking over-the-counter remedies to ease the symptoms. The best medicine is always preventive. So, concentrate on bringing your stress level down.