There are many triggers to stress, including imminent deadlines, looking at your bank balance after a hard day shopping and pressures at work. Your body deals with stress the same way the cave man dealt with being chased by wolves - the body shocks itself into fight or flight mode, which is stimulated by the adrenal glands (the gland responsible for secreting adrenaline). When we feel stressed the body reacts immediately; your brain sends signals to your adrenal glands to secrete a high dosage of adrenaline and cortisone into your body, and the body reacts as though it's being attacked. Ever heard of someone breaking their leg and saying they couldn't feel the pain after 5-10 minutes? It's the same concept, your body shifts into survival mode. A few effects of adrenaline are: the heart pumps faster, blood pressure increases and bodily functions that aren't deemed to be vital in flight or fight mode shut down. Have a guess as to what function is one of the first to shut down? The normal functions of the skin.
In fight or flight mode your body doesn't care about how hydrated your skin is and how many nutrients you're getting; all it's focusing on, at that present moment, is how it's going to deal with such a huge overload of hormones in the blood. So the vital functions that keep your skin looking gorgeous and radiant stop dead in their tracks. There are numerous effects of stress that appear on our skin, some of which include:
1. Your skin's natural protective antibodies (found in the top layer of skin) decreases dramatically, opening up opportunities for bacteria and germs to enter into the deeper layers of your skin. This can lead to breakouts and problematic skin.
2. Because of the increased secretions, the skins pH balance is upset and therefore the skin's ability to hydrate and protect itself depletes. Over a period of time this can lead to skin damage and premature ageing, through dehydration and chemical overload.
3. Because your adrenal glands are producing adrenaline like there's no tomorrow, glucose (sugar) is released into the blood to give you that burst of energy you need for 'fight-flight mode'. If your body doesn't use these sugars they're reabsorbed into the layers of surrounding tissues and skin. This can aggravate your skin, leading to blemishes, breakouts and dehydration.
It would be very easy for me to say "just stop stressing, chill out!" but for some people it's not as easy as that. Life happens and at times it can be damn stressful; there's no hiding from it! Here are some quick tips that have worked successfully for my clients and don't require you running for the hills kicking and screaming:
Take Five: In moments of stress or anxiousness, step out of the situation and head somewhere quiet. Stand still and take five slow deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. This will slow down the adrenaline produced in the blood and stop your blood sugar levels rising too high.
Me Time: Take an hour out for some 'me time' once a week. Be it going for a walk, a yoga class or coffee with a friend, time for yourself will help decrease stress levels and give you well deserved time out to re-balance and reflect.
Resolutions: Sit down in a quiet spot and jot down ideas of how you can resolve a stressful issue. Sometimes we tend to get caught up in the moment and panic to the point where we can't see a resolution - give yourself a moment to compose your thoughts.
Sleep: I can't express enough how beneficial it is to have a solid 7 -8 hours sleep a night. Asking your body to function normally when you've had a lack of sleep is like telling a starving person to run a marathon - you simply don't have the energy to do it. Sleep deprivation can slow down bodily functions which in turn slows down our normal responses. Allow yourself time to settle into bed comfortably to enable a good night's sleep.
I hope this has educated you a little on the impact stress can have not only on our body, but also our skin. Will you be trying out some of my stress-relieving tips?
Written by Amy