I used to be a total stress head. I would stress myself silly over unimportant things, like being late for a movie and missing the first five minutes. Or the house being a mess. Or having a lot of work on (OK I still stress about having a lot of work on).
Over the years, I’ve learnt to observe my mental state enough (through meditation or just daily mindfulness) so that I can self-talk my way out of most potentially stressy situations. I still get a bit panicked when I have a bunch of big deadlines looming, though. So I try and tell myself that I will have time for everything I need to do, and that stressing will only make things worse — not better.
One positive effect of stressing less and not sweating the small stuff, is that my skin is a lot better than it used to be. I used to break out in big, pussy pimples on my chin when I got stressed to the max, and they even left a bit of scarring.
Stress effects the skin BIG TIME.
In fact, the effects of stress and agitated mental and emotional states on the skin has led to the creation of a new field of study: ‘psychodermatology‘.
Dermatologists are now starting to work in with the behavioural sciences (like psychology and psychiatry) in a more holistic approach to skin disorders, which is fantastic.
What they’ve found is that the mind and skin are connected on many levels. Nerve endings are connected to the skin, so just as stress and anxiety can manifest through gastrointestinal disorders, so can it contribute to skin disorders, such as acne, eczema, hives, rosacea, psoriasis, alopecia (hair loss) and vitiligo (white spots on the skin).
Stress is particularly bad for acne. When you’re tense, your body releases stress hormones, including cortisol, which is thought to increase the skin’s oil production, making you prone to breakouts.
Since the skin is an organ and is connected to the rest of your physiology, including your mind, it makes sense that it will suffer various repercussions of stress, so it’s important to learn how to cope with it in a healthy way. Here are a few ideas:
10 simple ways to cope with stress
- Cut back on caffeine, which exacerbates anxiety. Replace it with herbal teas or delicious coconut water, which is extremely hydrating for the skin
- Have some ‘you’ time each day, whether it’s a bath scented with essential oils, a yoga class, a walk in the sunshine, or curling up with a brilliant novel
- Learn to say no. Taking on too much is a one-way ticket to Stress City, so only say yes to what you know you can accomplish without burning yourself out
- Eat a mostly organic, natural diet with plant-based foods and plenty of good protein and pure water
- Don’t cheat yourself out of sleep — make sure you get 7–8 hours each night so your body (and mind) can rest and repair
- Exercise at least half an hour a day, or three times per week for an hour – it’s by far one of the best stress-busters, because it helps eliminate stress hormones, increases your endorphins, and improves your circulation (which benefits the skin)
- Learn how to meditate, and sit each day for 24 minutes (one minute for each hour of the day). You can try focussing on your breath, gazing at a candle, repeating a mantra, or observing your bodily sensations. Mukti talks about her favourite styles of meditation in this post
- Once a month, book yourself in for some sort of relaxing, pampering treatment, such as a massage, facial, reflexology treatment or an acupressure session, which will help balance out your hormones
- Be mindful of your thoughts: when you catch your mind racing off at a million miles an hour, freaking about everything you have to get done in the next 24 hours…STOP. Breathe. Write a list of what you need to do and how long each task will take. If you’re stressing about something minor, like being late for an appointment, just accept that the world won’t end if you’re late. Everything will be OK and if it’s not, you will deal with it when the time comes.
- Remember this mantra: the bridges you cross before you come to them are over rivers that don’t exist!
Do you notice any changes to your skin when you’re feeling stressed? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.