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How does stress affect your skin?

Stress is something that we will all experience throughout our lifetime. A reasonable level of stress is not bad for us, and indeed it can help us in our everyday lives, however if that level of stress becomes too much it can have lots of negative effects on our bodies. We all know that stress can affect us in many ways, our stomachs can get upset, we have trouble sleeping, we become anxious and irritable, but did you know that stress can also affect your skin?

Your body responds to changes in your psychological state; conditions like stress, depression, and anxiety can cause new skin issues to develop or existing skin issues to flare up. When you feel stressed, your sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into your body.

Cortisol causes increased oil production in your skin glands, which can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts. Cortisol also breaks down collagen and elastin which results in the formation of wrinkles and skin laxity.

Chronic stress can also lead to insulin resistance. Inhibited insulin causes higher levels of blood sugar, contributing to a biological process called glycation that hinders elasticity in skin tissue — and may cause wrinkles to form earlier than they would otherwise

The image below shows a soldier in world war II before going off to war and 4 years later. Just look at the affect stress has taken on his skin

Additionally, stress can cause increased internal inflammation. When your body perceives a threat, the immune system sends out a response to handle it – that response is inflammation. Usually, inflammation helps protect and heal our bodies from microbes and wounds, but a body under stress causes the immune system to overreact and send out an inflammatory response. An increase in inflammation reduces the bodies’ ability to repair itself.

Stress can also cause inflammation through the gut-skin connection. Stress impacts the balance of bacteria in your gut, which leads to a release of inflammation. Internal inflammation can manifest externally as skin conditions like acne, or eczema and psoriasis flare-ups. People with chronic inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea are more sensitive to flare ups when they are stressed.


So what can we do to control our stress levels?

1. Exercise

Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress.

Photo by Mark Timberlake on Unsplash

It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress. The benefits are strongest when you exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don’t exercise.

There are a few reasons behind this:

· Stress hormones: Exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones — such as cortisol — in the long run. It also helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers.

· Sleep: Exercise can also improve your sleep quality which can be negatively affected by stress and anxiety.

· Confidence: When you exercise regularly, you may feel more competent and confident in your body, which in turn promotes mental wellbeing.

Try to find an exercise routine or activity you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, rock climbing or yoga. Activities — such as walking or jogging — that involve repetitive movements of large muscle groups can be particularly stress relieving.

If you fancy trying dance fitness or Salsa then check out

2. Reduce your caffeine intake

Photo by NATHAN MULLET on Unsplash

Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. High doses can increase anxiety. People have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate. If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back. Although many studies show that coffee can be healthy in moderation, it’s not for everyone. In general, five or fewer cups per day is considered a moderate amount. Try adding in a green tea or a fruit tea when you are desperate for a cuppa

3. Spend time with friends and family

Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful times. Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help you in tough times. One study found that for women in particular, spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. This effect is called “tend and befriend,” and is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Keep in mind that both men and women benefit from friendship. Another study found that men and women with the fewest social connections were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety

Check out websites like Nottingham Sociables who have loads of organised events and meet ups you can join in.

4. Laugh

It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re laughing. It’s good for your health, and there are a few ways it may help relieve stress: - Relieving your stress response. - Relieving tension by relaxing your muscles. In the long term, laughter can also help improve your immune system and mood.

A study among people with cancer found that people in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted. Try watching a funny TV show or hanging out with friends who make you laugh

5. Sleep

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

It’s so important to get a good nights sleep. Make sure that your bedroom gives you a sense of calm and tranquillity away from the things that are causing your stress. Try to switch off your mobile phones and other electrical equipment an hour before you go to bed.

A hot bath with calming bubbles can help you to sleep. A warm drink with no caffeine can also help. Try playing a subliminal sleep meditation from You tube to help you get to sleep.

6. Try Meditation or Yoga

No its not all namby-pamby rubbish! Give it a try for yourself. Practice breathing and learning how to relax your body and mind. Even giving yourself 10 minutes a day of brain calm will help with your stress levels.

Photo by Dane Wetton on Unsplash

Check out Sarah Beth Yoga on You tube for free Yoga workouts.

7. Eating

Make sure that you are eating regularly. Whatever that means for you. Some people eat 3 times a day, some more some less, but whatever you do, do not allow your body to get to that point where you are starving hungry. This will release more cortisol into your system

Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash


However you do it, is down to you, but trust me your skin will thank you for controlling your stress levels.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with your stress, then please reach out, whether to friend, family, me or if you need somebody not so close then try associations like Mind UK or Supportline

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