I have been a bit down lately as well as worried because my cat is still unwell. We all go through tough periods in our lives which cause stress and anxiety. I know when I go through extended periods of stress, my skin starts misbehaving. I get a few extra pimples, and I am more prone to my eczema flaring up. The best thing I found I can do for myself is to try to wind down and relax.
Stress and Your Skin
Unfortunately for us, there is a clear link between stress and acne. Acne severity correlates highly with increasing stress and the cells that produce sebum have receptors for stress hormones. We all know that sebum is the oily substance that mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria to clog the hair follicles, leading to a pimple or acne cyst. I don't know about you, but rather than wait for stress pimples to rear their ugly heads, I try to prevent stress from taking over. I make sure I do a few good things for myself each day in order to promote good mental health all the time.
Stress Acne and Eczema
I have the dreaded double combination, skin that is prone to pimples AND eczema. While they say that eczema is not directly caused by stress, stress makes you more likely to have an eczema outbreak and it can make the outbreak worse too. Stress hormones are known to impair the body's immune response.
When I am stressed, I tend to make less healthy food choices too as I crave sugar and convenience meals. I am less likely to want to cook for myself too. This all becomes a vicious cycle, as I explain in my post The Link Between Diet and Skin Health. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a diet low in sugar and bad fats is key to keeping you looking and feeling your best. It is important to remember that feelings of stress are fleeting, whereas your health is not.
What can you do to keep on top of your feelings of stress? More importantly how can you ignore these feelings for a while so you can feel more equipped to deal with them? I will share with you what I do all the time to prevent stress before it becomes too much for me.
1. Make sure you spend some time each day getting some exercise.
I attend a dance class and boot camp on Monday, try to fit two sessions of weights in at the gym every week plus I also make sure I get some cardio in too. Walking is great for the soul as you get out in fresh air and it also promotes quality family time if you go with friends and family. These days, because of technology, it is so easy to be constantly working and connected. If you have a stressful job, it is important to utilise your lunch break. Eat your food in the park and then go for a walk. It will be easier to switch back on if you have taken a break out of your day!
2. Take a bath.
I often take a bath because of my sensitive skin, however taking time out in a bath with candles and some relaxing bath oil is a great idea too. Quite a few things on my list below will seems pretty obvious to you most probably. However, it is the quality of the time you spend out of your normal life that will really make or break your mental health. There is no use getting into the bath and continuing to think about your problems. The whole point of relaxing is to leave your thoughts behind for a while so you can feel ready to face them later. Maybe practice some mindfulness in the bath? You can meditate sure, however not everyone is comfortable doing that. I like to focus on my breathing and trying to still my breath. I have just discovered float tanks. I love how you can just focus on your breathing and float away.
3. Drink lots of water.
Did you know that a lack of water can cause stress? We have this hormone in our bodies called cortisol, which is well known as a stress hormone. Even a little bit of dehydration can cause cortisol levels in the body to increase and lead to stress. If you are stressed already and worried about your skin flaring up, drinking more water will only help to flush out your system.
4. Eat comforting healthy foods.
I love winter time because you can eat warm and healthy foods like soup and stews. When I am sick, I love it when my husband makes his chicken soup. It's packed with vegetables and chicken which is not only warming but full of vitamins and minerals. Eating warming and healthy foods will warm you from the inside and make you feel good. If you do want to eat some chocolate make it dark chocolate, without all the sugar and milk. Cocoa is the best antioxidant there is and dark chocolate can improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease.
5. Talk to someone about your problem.
If you feel like you just can't focus or your feelings are too big to ignore, try to talk to someone about your issue. You can start by talking to friends and family. I always sound ideas out with my husband and he is also a good listener. He is quite logical and always looks at things analytically. Men are less emotionally driven and it is good to have his point of view. I also speak to him when I am stressed out; this normally stems from a problem, so he can help to solve both problem and stress at the same time. If you feel like you are still upset, or have been stressed for a good period of time, it may be time to seek professional help. Talking to someone helps to ease the burden on you.
6. Get a massage.
When you are stressed you can hold it in your physical self and your muscles become all tense! My almost favourite past time is going to get a massage. I find a balance of remedial and stress relieving massage is best. Remedial because I work out all the time and because I hold my stress in my neck, jaw and back. Stress relieving massage is good too since they target pressure points, add music and burn essential oils!
7. Window shop online.
When I get stressed I like to look at things online. I browse and save them for later. My favourite thing to do is to go and save a whole bunch of things I need and want into wishlists for later on! Who knows, they might go on sale later when you actually need them or they could be good gifts for someone special.
8. Spend time with your pet.
Go for a walk with your dog, pat your cat or groom your horse. Animals seem to sense when you are feeling down and come and keep you company! Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.
9. Read a book.
I haven't read a book in a long time. Today however, I sat down and really focused on a physical book again. I read my skin health book that I featured in my post The Link Between Diet and Skin Health again. Because I needed a refresh on the vitamin suggestions in it. Many of us don't really read any more or we read on kindles since we are so technology driven these days. I love the smell and feeling you get when handling a good book.
10. Watch Netflix.
Need we say more about this? Netflix and chill right? Some of my favourite shows lately are the Santa Clarita Diet, Terrace House, Black Mirror and Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories.