Before We Go On
We're starting a new bi-weekly series on self-care - it won't always be skincare related but in this post, we'll explain why skincare is inherently self-care. We've explained the difference between Western and Eastern skincare philosophy and to summarize: in the East skincare is a form of health care or better yet self-care. With K-beauty becoming increasingly popular in the West, the skincare philosophy has been shifting towards the Eastern idea of skincare. Good skin comes from being mindful and attentive to what our skin or body needs - whether it be a product, an activity, or nutrition. This includes the experience of feeling stressed and the way it can manifest on your skin is one of the big and mysterious categories of skincare. With that being said, let's get into how stress can play a major role on your skin and various ideas on how to manage stress when it comes your way.
Stress and Skin
Stress is a very difficult subject to contain in a blog post or in most ways because it is a personal experience. What may be stressful for one person may not be for the next. Furthermore, how stress manifests or affects you also differs. Although a widely understood feeling, the consequences, and triggers of stress are varied. For starters, when we experience stress certain chemicals are released from the skin, these are called neuropeptides. Neuropeptides protect us but upon the release can cause discomfort including sensitivity, inflammation, and et.c. Stress can also cause our skin barrier to become sensitive, and reactive which leaves the skin less protected and more susceptible to damage from the external environment. More noticeably, stress can cause our skin to heat up, sweat, produce more sebum, and break out in hives. These skin conditions are likely to be ones that we all prefer not to go through. Luckily for us, there are various ways to manage stress. These are relatively good starting points for becoming more aware of the ways to manage stress.
1.Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga.
There's a reason this is at the top of our list and found in almost every stress management list out there. Mindfulness through meditation, and/or yoga is one of the best things we can do for stress. Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the present moment with intention. When existing with mindfulness, we make a conscious decision to let go of judgment. Mindfulness can be practiced in various ways - it is most commonly associated with practicing meditation and yoga. But, you can apply it to any moment, including eating, walking, observing your breath, or just taking a pause. If mindfulness is an absolutely foreign concept to you - don't worry! There are a variety of resources and tools on the internet that can guide you through practicing mindfulness. The same goes for meditation and yoga, where mindfulness is encouraged throughout the practice! Practicing mindfulness as often as you need, is a great way to de-clutter your mind and lessen any stress. Which in turn improves your skin!
2.Get Moving (Could be Yoga)
Another well researched and highly praised solution: exercise. Exercising, even if it's just taking a long walk, can decrease stress and improve your overall mood. Exercise and physical activity produce endorphins - like meditation or deep breathing. Due to the increase in endorphin production, your brain will feel more stress relief and happier. The effects can improve sleep and increase self-confidence - both can affect stress levels. Whether you choose to meditate, do yoga, run, hit the gym, or sign up for a fun dance class - just do it! It'll be tough to start but worth it in the long run.
3.Relax and Have Fun
Sounds simple and easy but often times we easily forget to have fun during times of stress. Sometimes taking a break to relax or do something fun can take your mind off of the stress. This method is relatively broad - you should do whatever is fun and relaxing for you. This could mean playing a board game, watching a funny video, taking a bubble bath or doing a sheet mask. The options are subjective and up to you! It's a great way to pull your attention towards something else instead of focusing on the stress your feeling which can only make the stress feeling worse.
4. Get Creative
Creativity isn't just exclusive to artists - it's an instinct we all possess and a skill that we can further develop. Even if you're not an artist, taking the time to draw freely, play music, or creating something (whether it be writing or finishing a puzzle) can help you reach flow or a focused state. This state of mind might make you lose track of time, but will decrease cortisol (a stress hormone) and increase dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. So, when you're feeling stressed just take a moment to doodle or whatever creative activity you can fit in - express yourself!
We know this one sounds a bit redundant and you might even be thinking that you are constantly breathing. But, we'd like to say that sometimes in times of stress and anxiety - we do forget to breathe. When we are stressed all our attention goes towards our stressful thoughts - it's best to take a moment, stop and take a deep breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. You might want to do this a few times or maybe ten times. Pay attention to your breath as you do this - it's a little practice of mindfulness and will calm our stress levels.
6.Connect with Others
Whether your an introvert or an extrovert - spending time with others and even talking about what's making you feel stressed is a great way to diminish the problem. Call your best friend and tell them what's going on or ask them about their day - whatever takes your mind away from the stress.
7. Get Enough Sleep
When people say, "sleep on it", they aren't wrong. Sleeping enough or even taking a much-needed nap will help your mind and body feel recharged and more relaxed. You'll ultimately be more prepared to take on stress rather than staying awake and reveling in it.
8. Eat Healthy
A healthy diet reduces the negative effects of stress on the body (this includes the skin) - it can reduce oxidation, inflammation, and weight gain. Having a diet rich in omega-3s, vitamin E, and polyphenols (red wine, blueberries, and dark chocolate) is a great way to start in terms of healthy eating. Bananas, leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds can increase energy and magnesium can reduce anxiety. Another eating tip for stressful days is to eat little and often to stabilize your blood sugar levels and reduce stress!
9.Reduce Caffeine and Sugar
Caffeine and sugar can throw off your biorhythms by affecting your sleep and throwing off your blood sugar levels. As we mentioned before, sleeping well and maintaining stable blood sugar levels are important to handling stress levels. So if you can help it lower your intake of both to help your body better handle stress!
10. Identify the Source of Stress and Alter, Adapt, Avoid, or Accept it.
The four A's is a well-used method to handle stress and compared to the others is a more direct way to deal with stress. The four A's suggest avoiding the stressor, alternating the stressor, adapting to the situation, and accepting the stressor. We're no expert on the matter but you can go here to learn more about it.
The Self-Care Series is a bi-weekly series on the Dr.Althea Global Blog that discusses topics surrounding self-care. To suggest a topic of discussion leave a comment below.