Our bodies are wonderful & complex eco-systems. When something is “acting up” it’s easy to think that our luck was lacking in the genetic lottery… much easier than realising and fully understanding that in fact, our actions and environment have a huge impact as well as genetics.
Poor skin condition can have a huge negative impact on our daily confidence levels, leaving us feeling less than our best. Skin confidence, however, runs much deeper than skin deep.
When you experience flare-ups, irritation, eczema, psoriasis or acne for example, the causes are very likely not just one thing. That makes it very hard to figure out the causes, but the upside is that on balance you likely have a lot of options available to improve your situation. There’s no point dwelling on things that we cannot change, however when there’s an opportunity to act and create a positive change, it is well worth taking action.
When stress becomes a habit
Stress is so pervasive in our culture that it is too often dismissed, but the connection between stress and the skin is very real. In an earlier post, I shared my story with skin sensitivity. Today I want to delve deeper into the effects of stress on your skin because it’s one of the least obvious but most far-reaching triggers for skin sensitivity and skin conditions.
When stress happens as a reaction to a life event or situation, it’s a perfectly healthy reaction that is there to protect us. But when it becomes chronic or habitual, the consequences of stress take a real toll on our health.
Stress releases hormones that affect your skin (and your hair)
You avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals in your food and skincare products, however stress itself releases inflammatory chemicals that disrupt your wellbeing.
Inflammation is your body’s way of reacting to threats. It’s there to protect you against viruses for example, but in the process, if sustained, it can cause harm as well, or the body can overreact. Our skin plays such an important barrier and immune functions and the result is accelerated ageing and a lowered ability by our skin to protect us. This leaves us prone to skin conditions such as eczema (but not only) which are known to be linked to increased inflammation in the body.
Other ways in which stress wrecks havoc on our skin
When you suffer from stress, don’t you find you tend to eat less nutritious food and that your sleep is less restful?
These after-effects of stress are just as harmful to your skin as stress itself because they also cause hormone disruption, and they affect your mood & decision making hugely. Nutritious food gives your body a boost, enabling it to fight to keep you healthy. Sleep is incredibly important too as it is proven to reduce the stress hormone cortisol naturally.
On the mental health side of things, if you are not feeling well in general because of stress, chances are you are not looking after your skin as well as you would otherwise either. And yet, something as basic as moisturising your skin is incredibly important for example in maintaining the health of your skin.
How to reduce stress, and the impact of stress on your skin
The reality is that stress is very personal to each one of us. Your situation and mine are very different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I have learned that looking for a “solution” is not usually a healthy coping mechanism. Instead, I see much greater benefits by introducing new micro-habits into my lifestyle.
If you are up to a read, I highly recommend James Clear’s Atomic Habits. The core concept is this: your identity is created by your actions. Your actions are guided by your habits. Changing your habits is very difficult which is why most people give up on their resolutions. Instead, if you focus on starting you will find that completing a task becomes much easier, and if you focus on building up these new micro-habits one at a time, you will stick with them because they are achievable. Not only this, but you start to gain a sense of achievement you can snowball to build up your confidence. Finally, the accumulation of new habits changes the way you act to more closely align with your desired identity, and in turn, your sense of identity evolves.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting James years ago at an event, and he is the embodiment of everything he teaches. I highly recommend this book if the concept intrigues you.
Really think about this – for me this concept was truly life-changing. And not just in tackling my chronic stress (which I still have to work on all the time).
For example, if your objective is to reduce stress in your life, your resolution cannot be to reduce stress. It’s too big. It’s possibly bigger than your reach because a lot of things are outside of your control. Instead, what really helped me was to introduce “anchors” in my daily routine. This could be making a habit of switching location after a certain time to get away from the television in the evening and setting up your space to transition to a restful night. The act of getting up and going away from the television frees you to this transition and encourages you to think of ways to release stress long enough before it is time to sleep. This, in turn, reduces your stress levels and improves the quality of your sleep.
It’s only one idea but if you look at your daily rituals, I’m confident that you will find many opportunities for you to make a small change with huge benefits. And your health, confidence and skin confidence are well worth it.
Until next time,