You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging for the past few months. I haven’t disappeared! In fact I’ve been going through an extremely stressful time with my website, and have been working day and night behind the scenes trying to fix it (watch the end of today’s video to find out more).
With that being said, I’m back blogging, and I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about stress management, especially relating to you skin.
Stress and skin
Stress does affect your skin. According to this study on the brain-skin connection; stress not only inflames your skin, but can age it too.
If you’re prone to acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, dermatitis, or just have very sensitive or reactive skin – you’ve probably experienced what stress can do to your skin.
When stressed, our skin can go haywire due to changes in cortisol levels and hormones. You may also have increased or decreased production of sebum, or a triggered immune response. All of which can result in acne breakouts, excessively oily or dry skin, hives, rashes, dermatitis, and flare ups of skin conditions.
It’s hard enough dealing with stress, even worse when your skin starts breaking out too.
Many of my coaching clients ask what to do when something stressful happens, and their skin starts breaking out? This is the worst because you’re finally reaching your skin goals, and boom, something happens, and you have to start all over again.
Is there anything you can do to prevent it, or handle the stress better for your skin?
Since I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, I thought it would be a perfect time to share my stress management “tools.” I’m in no way perfect when dealing with stress. In fact, I’m very sensitive to stress, it affects me to the core. I have to work extra hard to manage it.
With that being said, I’ve got some stress management tricks to share with you. Plus, some skincare tips to help support your skin during stressful times.
How to manage stress better for your skin
Stressed about being stressed?
I mentioned before that many of my coaching clients ask me what to do when they’re stressed to prevent getting breakouts. When they ask me, they’re usually in the middle of a stressful situation, or just got over the stress and are dealing with the effects of what it did to their skin. And they don’t want it to happen again.
There’s something about being stressed about stress that just makes it 1000 times worse.
Every stressful event and situation is different. And we handle stress differently every time. Sometimes we’re on top of the stress and can move through the situation without it having any ill effects. Other times we are overwhelmed and crumble under stress.
You can try to prepare for stress, but, you never know how you’re going to deal with it until you’re actually in the situation.
That being said, you might not always handle stress the way you want to. You might end up being overly hard on yourself or anxious about it. Which makes it worse.
When you’re critical of yourself, or overly worried; that makes your hormones fluctuate, and takes your power away. That feeds the stress, making its effects even worse.
I’ve learned that accepting I’m in a stressful situation and that I may or may not be handling it as well as I would like, actually helps me get through the stress a lot more efficiently. It takes the pressure off. It eliminates the need to be perfect or in control.
So, the first thing I recommend doing is acknowledging your stress. Don’t fight it. Work with it. Allow the stress to be what it is without getting too worked up or anxious about being stressed. You’ll see, your skin will be a lot less reactive.
Support your health during times of stress
This can be tough.
For many of you, when you aren’t stress it’s easy to follow your healthy diet and lifestyle. But the moment stress hits, all that might stop.
Sometimes you get so overwhelmed with a situation, you stop taking care of yourself. Your health gets put on the back burner. Your healthy habits get replaced with quick fixes like caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and comfort foods.
You might not be sleeping good or enough. You might stop exercising because you don’t have time. You might be replacing your healthy meals with fast food and junk food.
And we all know what that can do to your skin.
But, before you get all hard on yourself about it (which will just make your skin worse), instead, I want you to try and find EASY healthy things you can do. These are simple, almost “effortless” things that don’t take much time or energy to do. They will support your health and buffer the stress.
These heathy de-stress things need to be easy to do. Almost effortless. They shouldn’t involve much thinking, preparing, or planning.
Here’s a few things you can try:
- Keep a large water bottle next to you to ensure you’re drinking water (which many of us forget to do when we are stressed!). If it’s next to you, you are more inclined to drink it.
- If you can’t exercise, try and do things standing up instead of sitting down. For example, when you are on the phone, stand up and walk around while talking. If you work on a computer, prop it up on something high so you can work standing up. This is an easy way of getting more movement into your daily life without having to do much.
- Spend some time outdoors. And if you don’t have time, take a few moments throughout the day to look outside a window. This might sound completely strange, but it works to refresh your focus and clears your mind.
- Listen to your favourite music.
- Have healthy meals delivered to you.
- Hire someone to clean your house once a week.
- Use aromatherapy to calm or uplift you (you can use an essential oil diffuser or even just wear your favourite perfume, body lotion, etc.). It’s amazing how different aromas and scents can affect your mood without any effort.
- Take a hot bath at the end of the day or before bedtime.
- Treat yourself to a massage.
- Listen to relaxation audio programs or guided meditation.
- The easiest/fastest healthy meals you can make are smoothies or soups. Stock up on ingredients, make large batches of soups, and keep your blender on your counter for easy access.
- The easiest/fastest healthy snack you can make are fresh fruit, sliced raw vegetables, nuts/seeds, and vegetables and dips (fresh guacamole is especially good snack for healthy skin).
- Whenever you pass a juice bar, stop and get a fresh green vegetable juice or a shot of wheatgrass. These drinks are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will give your body and skin the nutritional boost it needs.
- At the start or end of the day, make ginger and turmeric tea with a little fresh lime juice. This will help support your immune system, keeping you from getting run down from stress.
- If you are prone to cystic acne during stressful times, drink mint water. It’s so easy to make. Just put a few sprigs of fresh mint in a large pitcher of water, and drink throughout the day. Spearmint is a known hormone balancer and is a fantastic remedy for hormonal and cystic acne. For full instructions and the benefits of mint water for acne, check out this blog post.
Get support from the right person
Stressful times can feel quite isolating.
Sometimes you feel like no one cares or understands.
Sometimes you’re so wrapped up with your problems and stress, you lose touch with your friends and loved ones.
Social contact is really important. Being around people really does help relieve stress and tension. And it’s very important to have someone to talk to.
But I will also say that’s sometimes it’s important to have the right person to talk to. You need to be heard and understood.
Sometimes I need a friend to talk to that understands the problem or situation I’m in. I might be looking for help, advice, a solution, or someone to bounce ideas off of. With that person, I don’t need to explain the problem, they just get it.
Other times I need someone who understands me, my character, my personality, and my unique needs. They know my strengths and my weakness. I can go to them for emotional support. They might no fully understand my problem or situation, but they understand me.
If you know what kind of support you need, you can go to the right person for help. If you’re talking to the wrong person about your problem, despite good intentions, it can feel frustrating and you can sink further into isolation.
Next time you’re stressed and you feel alone or no one understands – ask yourself what kind of support you really need? Do you need someone who can help you with the problem, or do you someone to vent to, who will listen to you without judgement and an open heart?
Knowing this one detail will ensure you get the support you really need.
Know what works for YOU
As I said in the beginning of this blog post, we all handle stress differently. And each stressful situation we encounter may trigger a different reaction.
But, there are certain things you can take away from a stressful situation that can be of incredible value.
Knowing yourself and how you handle and respond to stress can help empower you the next time you are dealing with stress.
It’s really important while you are going through a stressful time to take note of the things that make you feel better.
The reason I say this is because when you’re not stressed, it’s easy to say, “Next time I’m stressed I will do x, y, and z.” But when the stress comes, doing x, y, and z might feel impossible. As they say, “Easier said than done!”
You only know how you handle stress when you are actually stressed. And too often, when we are stressed, we are so immersed in the situation we have very little perspective of what helps to manage the stress.
Next time you are stressed, take note of:
- What helps you feel less stressed
- What makes you feel more clear and in control
- What inspires you, or gives you more hope or motivation
Also, once you get to the other side of the stressful situation, and while it’s still fresh – look back and write down all the things that you did that made the situation easier. So next time, when you are stressed, you can look at that list you made for yourself, and follow your own instructions.
Adjusting your skin care routine for stressful times
Since this article is specifically about managing stress so it doesn’t adversely affect your skin, I want to give you some advice for your skin care routine.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, stress triggers changes in hormones, cortisol levels, sebum production, and immune response. Stress affects your skin, and I believe it’s really important to adjust your skincare routine when you are under stress.
All these chemical and hormones fluctuations during a stressful time can make your skin particularly sensitive and reactive. When you’re under stress, you are much more prone to inflammation and irritation.
Because of this, I recommend using very mild and gentle skin care products. If possible, minimize the amount of products you are using.
During times of stress, I don’t recommend using strong active ingredients like exfoliating acids (AHAs and BHA) or retinoids/retinols. Even using an exfoliating scrub can be too aggravating for your skin when you are under stress.
These active ingredients rely on your body’s ability to repair and regenerate new skin cells. But if your body is stressed, it’s ability to repair itself isn’t working as well as it should. Using strong active ingredients during times of stress can potentially cause irritation and damage.
If you want to get the best results from using strong active ingredients, best to use them when you are good and healthy. The same goes for getting facials or cosmetic procedures. Do them when your body is strong and can repair itself efficiently. Not when you are run down or overburdened with stress.
The best skincare routine you can have when you are stressed is to use a mild cleanser (no foaming or soapy cleansers), moisturizer and sunscreen.
Keep you skincare routine very simple, yet effective. If you find your skin gets really dry when you are stressed, you might want to add a few drops of oil to your moisturizer. If you find it’s the reverse, your skin gets super oily when stressed, then try skipping your moisturizer and just wash your face once or twice a day.
I also recommend avoiding products that contains synthetic fragrance and alcohol. These can be irritants, especially if your skin is sensitive or reactive. Even makeup at stressful times can be irritating.
If your skin is already irritated, here’s a blog post on how to adjust your skin care routine for irritated skin.
Whatever you can do to cut back and give your skin a break, do it! It’s not forever, just until the stress passes and you’re back on your healthy routine, and everything is balanced again.
References for this article
Chen Y, Lyga J. Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014;13(3):177–190. doi:10.2174/1871528113666140522104422
Chiu A, Chon SY, Kimball AB. The Response of Skin Disease to Stress: Changes in the Severity of Acne Vulgaris as Affected by Examination Stress.. Arch Dermatol. 2003;139(7):897–900. doi:10.1001/archderm.139.7.897