With everything going on right now, I figured that now would be an ideal time to address how stress affects the quality of our skin and how we can decompress.
First, a brief science lesson: when we are under stress, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline course through our veins and affects our entire body. Normally, these hormones aid us in the “fight or flight” response, giving us the necessary energy we need to either defend ourselves against a threat or hightail it out of a dangerous situation. In an ideal setting, the effects are temporary and the response disappears when the threat is no longer present.
Even before our current crisis, however, stress has become a ubiquitous aspect of our lives in varying degrees. In any case, when the stress response becomes chronic, it becomes inconvenient to our complexions and dangerous to our overall health. Superficially, stress can be the culprit behind breakouts, dullness, dryness, wrinkles, and aggravated hyperpigmentation. On a more serious note, ongoing stress has been linked to heart disease, lowered immune defense, ulcers, weight gain, and a host of other health problems, some of which can become fatal if stress is left unaddressed.
Therefore, it is imperative that we do what we can to reduce the stress we are under. While we don’t all have the luxury of taking a long bubble bath or disconnecting from the world (but if you can, do it!), we do have other options available to us. Here are some that I myself have implemented:
LIMIT YOUR MEDIA INTAKE: I placed a complete moratorium on watching the news on TV; it’s too easy for me to get sucked in and bummed out. I only pay attention to my New York Times breaking news alerts and I’ll ask my more connected boyfriend for the high points during our evening chats-and even those check-ins are brief. I’m also weaning myself off of the mindless Instagram scrolling for the same reasons. The less attention you give to negativity, the less it can affect you. Stay aware, but first stay sane.
WATCH WHAT YOU EAT: It’s so easy for us to binge on salty snacks and sweet treats, neglecting healthy eating in exchange for “comfort.” Ironically, this is when we need to be the most mindful of what we put into our bodies. You don’t have to go vegan or swear off gluten, but staying hydrated with water and opting for fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains over processed foods and sugary drinks will give you steady energy and protect your body from the inside out. That being said, it’s cool to indulge (I love a good piece of chocolate myself), but try not to overdo it.
DON’T NEGLECT YOUR ROUTINE (BUT DO WHAT YOU CAN): Stress may have caused you to neglect your skin care routine, or you fear that you may run out of product so you skip a wash or two. At the very least you should always cleanse, moisturize, and protect your skin with SPF during the day, even if you stay inside (sunlight comes through windows and blue light from our screens can also damage our skin). If restocking on your serums and targeted treatments may be delayed due to the furlough, just stick with the basics and use them sparingly until you’re able to make the necessary purchases.
HAVE A QUIET MOMENT: Whether it’s for one minute or one hour, take time to silence your mind. A simple exercise is to get to a quiet place-be it your room, your car, the bathroom, the closet, etc. Then, after setting a timer, close your eyes and just focus on your breathing, ensuring the breaths are slow and even. Thoughts will come into your mind, but just let them pass through without getting attached. Once your quiet time is up, I guarantee you’ll feel re-centered and refreshed. If you engage in any spiritual or mindfulness practice (prayer, journaling, meditation, etc.), make sure you carve out time to engage, as this too can help reduce stress.
Brighter days are ahead, and we will get through this.