Let’s talk about stress. Life is stressful under normal times – we stress ourselves out about work, family issues, health issues, worrying about the future – the list goes on and on. And now, one year into a global pandemic, the stress certainly does not seem to be easing any.
Stress affects us in so many ways. When we’re stressed out, we tend to clench our jaw more, our muscles remain tight, and we feel the effects throughout our body. Headaches, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, and problems with sex and sleep are all common during times of stress. Stress can also lead to emotional issues, depression, panic attacks, and other forms of anxiety and worry.
But did you know that stress also affects our skin? Stress causes a chemical response in your body that makes skin more sensitive. It can also make it harder for skin problems to heal.
Our skin is also prone to more breakouts during times of stress because your body makes more hormones like cortisol, which tells glands in your skin to produce more oil. Oily skin is more prone to acne and other skin problems, such as undereye puffiness, dry skin, rashes, and premature aging.
Stress can also aggravate conditions like psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema.
If you’re stressed, you might also be inclined to skip out on your skincare routine, which can negatively impact your skin condition.
Combatting the Effects of Stress on the Skin
- Don’t neglect your skin. Take care of it, even if you’re tired or stressed.
- Get regular exercise. It’s good for your skin and the rest of your body.
- Get enough sleep. Seven to 8 hours each night is ideal.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration will only worsen all of the issues brought on by stress.
Need some ideas to help unstress? We’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favorites.
Get up and move. Even if it’s just short exercise breaks throughout the day, movement activates several neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, that enhance your mood and help lower your stress level.
Take a cue from the kids on this one. Grab a fidget spinner, thinking putty, or some packing bubbles. Having an actual physical item to focus on can transfer your anxious energy from your brain to your fingers. Plus, it’s just fun.
Try a deep tissue massage to relieve tension by stretching and spreading muscle fibers and tissues to help muscles relax and loosen. Loosened muscles increases movement, decreases pain, and reduces stress.
If you can’t get out for a massage, give yourself one. Some good spots to target are your neck, shoulders, the hinge of your jaw, and pressure points in the palm of your hand.
Anytime is a great time for a dance party! Dancing like no one is watching will give you an endorphin boost and leave you feeling happy and refreshed. Choose your favorite song – dancing to music from a happy time and place in your life can trigger positive memories, as well, taking your mind off your stress.
Sunshine naturally boosts levels of vitamin D and increases serotonin. Even just a ten-minute walk around the block can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on your next task. But don’t forget the SPF! 🙂
If you have more time to spare, Dr. Ava Shamban, founder of The Box by Dr Ava, recommends one of her favorite activities; hiking. Hiking can reduce stress, calm anxiety, and can lead to a lower risk of depression, according to a study done by researchers at Stanford University.
If the stress is more mental than physical and you feel your mind going in circles, give it something to do. Try a puzzle, a word search, or try an app like Lumosity or Personal Zen, which claims to reduce anxiety by training your brain to focus more on the positive and less on the negative. Sudoku our my personal fave!
We know that unstructured play is invaluable to children. But what about adults?
“Play is not just essential for kids – it’s also an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults,” says Rachel Buzenberg, a therapeutic recreational specialist with Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. “As we get older, we become set in our ways and find it hard to get out of our comfort zones and engage in new, fun activities. But expanding your leisure interests is not only calming, but it also helps you to manage stressors and build happiness.”
If you don’t have a kid to play with, organize a game of laser tag, a virtual scrabble night, or try bubble soccer – you will have so much fun you’ll think you’re a kid again!
Put your feet up – against the wall! The Vipariti Kirani yoga pose involves lying on the floor and resting the legs up against a wall. Not only does it give the body a good stretch, but it helps create peace of mind too.
Take a bath! Being in the water, whether it’s a bathtub, a swimming pool, or the ocean, can reduce pain and inflammation, calm the nervous system, reduce levels of stress and anxiety in the body, and improve your mood. So go take a quick dip.
Five minutes of peace is all it takes to reap the benefits of meditation. There’s evidence that just two sessions of silent meditation per day can relieve stress and depression. Find a comfortable spot in a quiet place, focus on your breath, and feel those anxieties start to disappear.
Whether you are painting, playing the trombone, or writing – having a creative outlet can positively impact your state of mind. Art therapy not only reduces stress but also helps us better manage the stress we already have.
Stress is never going to completely disappear from our lives, even after the current pandemic passes. But we can learn to manage it and control it, and there are things we can do just about anywhere and at any time to help us feel our best. Managing stress will not only lead to better health overall, but it will also keep your skin looking young and fresh.