What is stress?
Stress is the feeling you experience when you’re feeling under too much emotional or mental pressure. A little bit is normal but too much, and a prolonged period of it can take its toll on the body and skin.
When you experience stress, your body’s production of the hormone cortisol rises. It’s a helpful hormone because it provides us with bursts of energy in time of need when we need to react quickly. You’ve heard of the fight or flight response. Cortisol also helps regulate our blood pressure and reduce allergic and inflammatory responses.
Levels of this hormone naturally rise in the morning helping us to wake up. But today, our busy and demanding lifestyles means that our cortisol levels remain high for extended periods of time.
Prolonged levels of cortisol can lower our immunity and inflammatory responses, as well as slow down our healing responses. Chronically elevated levels cause alterations in the structure and function of the skin.
Effects of prolonged high cortisol levels on the skin:
- Increased oil production and acne
- Dry skin
- Inflammation and irritation
- Collagen and elastin degradation
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Thinning, fragile skin
- Worsening of eczema, rosacea and psoriasis
- Increased incidence of stretch marks
How can you tell if you’re too stressed?
- You feel drained and can’t seem to recharge
- You can’t sleep because your mind is working overtime
- You’re always ill. You don’t seem to get over a cold when another one comes along
- You’re not thinking straight and keep forgetting things
- Your body aches and you’re getting headaches
- You’ve lost your interest in sex
- You’re over-emotional, crying at the silliest things
- Your tummy is causing you jip
- You’ve started opening a bottle of wine when you get home to cope
- You’re bad tempered with the people you love
Lowering your stress levels can help you get rid of these symptoms and will help improve your skin condition. But if you’re overwhelmed with it all, seek out the support of a qualified professional who can help you find your peace.
Stop, Think, Plan
There are lots of things you can do to help yourself. I’ve personally found this method helpful;
- Firstly STOP! Take yourself off to a quiet room where there’ll be no disruptions. Put a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the door if need be.
- THINK about what it is that’s stressing you out. Write lists until you’re absolutely clear about what it is EXACTLY. You may be surprised at what transpires. Sometimes realising what you’re stressed about can make all the difference.
- PLAN. Now you know what’s causing your stress, write down what you can do to reduce that stress. It could involve talking to your boss or partner, delegating a few tasks or prioritising.
It could mean a week’s break without your phone somewhere peaceful so that you can gather yourself and gain a fresh perspective on what’s important in life.
You’ll know deep down what you need to do.
There’s also deep breathing, meditation, getting a hobby (takes your mind off things) and spending more time with friends but my thinking is that if you’ve not acknowledged whats stressing you out, no amount of relaxation will help you because you’ll always be feeling stressed and thinking about your stressors.
So if you’ve had a sudden breakout or your skin is behaving oddly, reflect on whether stress could be the cause and think about how you can let go of that stress.