How stress affects your skin

shutterstock_156263423Stress is necessary – it helps to boost our creativity, our learning capacity and our very survival. However, when stress becomes overwhelming, it can affect our health and importantly our skin. When highly stressed, our bodies are flooded with chemicals that prepare our bodies for fight or flight. Great if you are in an emergency situation – but not so great on a daily basis.

How you feel can affect how you look. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, studies link factors that affect our emotional wellbeing, such as stress, depression and anxiety, to an increase in skin concerns.

Stressed skin appears dull, tired-looking and acne-prone. When you are stressed out, that pesky hormone cortisol takes over.

This causes an increase in oil production, which can result in clogged pores, oily skin, acne and even dermatitis. Even if you don’t normally get pimples, stress can cause breakouts. On the plus side, on a microscopic level, stress reduction decreases the release of pro-inflammatory stress hormones and chemicals.

The release of neuropeptides (stress hormones released from the nerve endings) can be improved with basic stress-management techniques. This in turn can result in your skin looking and functioning better.

Here are some great stress release techniques by Jeannette Moninger, for WebMD and reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

1. Meditate

A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.

It’s simple. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting — out loud or silently — a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.

2. Breathe Deeply

Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.

“Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, says. She’s a certified life coach in Rome, GA.

3. Be Present

Slow down.

“Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness,” Tutin says. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food.

When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.

4. Reach Out

Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others — preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what’s going on. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection strong.

5. Tune In to Your Body

Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels.

“Simply be aware of places you feel tight or loose without trying to change anything,” Tutin says. For 1 to 2 minutes, imagine each deep breath flowing to that body part. Repeat this process as you move your focus up your body, paying close attention to sensations you feel in each body part.

6. Decompress

Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest, and back muscles. Remove the wrap, and use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage away tension.

These tips were published on WebMD: