(Just A Little, Not Too Much?)
The word stress usually conjures up a situation where you are anxious, nervous, and under strain. But you need some stress in your life to help you function at your best. Manageable levels of stress give you a zest for life, release your creativity, and generate excitement by challenging you to stretch your abilities. It is stress overload that can lead to health problems, which all too often show in the skin.
If you’re trying to do too much in too little time, you’re functioning in permanent overdrive. And that is where the difficulties lie. When you are in a stressful situation, certain physical changes occur that are designed to improve your performance. These effects are caused by the release of the “fight or flight” hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin, and cortisol, which prime your body for action.
Uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts and other skin problems.
Stress causes your heart rate to increased, the blood vessels in your skin to constrict, and it causes you to breathe faster and shallower.
Once the immediate pressure is removed, your body returns to a normal state. But if your body is constantly being readied for action without having time to recuperate, there can be detrimental effects on your health.
Short-term signs of stress overload are fatigue, sleeping difficulties, irritability, and memory lapses.
In time, you may find yourself getting more coughs and colds than usual because your immune system isn’t functioning at its peak.
Headaches or migraines, backaches, palpitations, asthma, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, and indigestion are other well-known symptoms.
You may lose your sense of humor, become uninterested in sex, and develop nervous twitches. And eventually you may feel that you can’t continue any more.
To encourage healthy skin — and a healthy state of mind — take steps to manage your stress. Set reasonable limits, scale back your to-do list and make time to do the things you enjoy. The results might be more dramatic than you expect.
Stress And Your Skin
The many physical changes associated with long-term stress can have intense effects on your skin.
The hormones released when you are under stress cause blood vessels to constrict, leading to poor circulation. And this decreased blood supply to the skin can leave it feeling dry, flaky, and prone to irritation.
In periods of stress your breathing alters, becoming quicker and more shallow. This reduces the amount of oxygen carried in your bloodstream, which in turn diminishes the oxygen supply to your skin. If the stress is longlasting, you may find that your skin becomes pasty or gray, it lacks glow, and you have tension lines around the forehead, eyes, and mouth.
Many skin complaints, such as eczema, psoriasis, and rashes- though not initially caused by stress- can worsen when you are under pressure. And some people find that they break out in spots when they are stressed.
Cut back on caffeine, which can increase feelings of anxiety. Water is better for your skin.
Coping With Stress
Although it’s impossible to remove all the stress from your life, there are techniques to stop life from getting on top of you and help you cope more effectively.
Make time for yourself. Just taking an hour a day to have a bath, read a book, or go for a walk can reduce your stress levels. Choose something undemanding- it should be a pleasure, not a chore.
Practice time management. If you’re trying to do too much, lower your expectations of yourself.
Learn to say no. If it’s not necessary, don’t do it.
Pay attention to your diet. Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat, high-fiber foods to make sure you get a full complement of nutrients.
Get enough sleep- but not too much, because this can make you feel sluggish in the morning.
Exercise can help clear your head, eliminate some of the buildup of stress hormones and release endorphins- the body’s “feel good” hormones. It can also improve your circulation, which will benefit your skin.
Learn a relaxation technique. Try deep-breathing exercises, visualization, meditation, or a form of yoga that involves special breathing techniques.
Have a massage to relax tense muscles.
A professional stress management course or counseling can give you a chance to talk about what’s troubling you and help you work out better ways of handling the demands in your life.