Stress is a silent but deadly killer. Because we can’t see it, we may often think it may not affect us. But in reality, regular and continuous stress has a very powerful impact on your immune system and therefore in the signs of inflammatory skin conditions (i.e. acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriaris, and more). When our stress levels are regularly unregulated, they can contribute to these skin disorders and have a large say in how many breakouts or how much redness appears on our skin.
The Autonomic Nervous System
The autononic nervous system is an involuntary response our body has in regulating its functions including our heart, brain, breathing, and other organs. When we detect a potential threat, this system operates a response of fight, flight, or freeze. Stress causes this system to activate and the autonomic nervous system sucks up our energy and focus. This results in the slowing or temporary shutting down of some normal bodily functioning including the immune system, digestion, and reproductive systems.
This is all good and useful when we’re actually in a dangerous situation. But with the world we live in today, our bodies may be inundated with stress daily from work, traffic, finances, “to do” lists, and so much more. Being in a relationship with a stressful individual or having friends and family who are stressed as well never does us any favors either. If we’re not mindful and take control, these activities can cause continuous, chronic stress on our bodies and therefore cause a serious suppression of our immune system. Breakouts, redness, and sensitivity of the skin tend to follow if this activity continues.
Thoughts, Stress, and Disease
Neuropsychology acknowledges that our emotions and thoughts illicit chemical and electrical impulses in our body that affect many of our body functions, including immunity. Because of this, our emotions and thoughts are directly tied to our health and illness. Here is just a short list of diseases that can occur in cases of chronic, daily stress:
• skin problems (such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis, and hives)
• high blood pressure
• heart attacks
• gastrointestinal problems
• accelerated aging
• many more…
So how can we take control? I believe the first step to lowering stress is by practicing mindfulness. This means placing nonjudgemental attention on your body and feelings. This may be brand new to you, in which case I want you to try this exercise. Sit still for five minutes. Don’t interact with any technology or pet your cat, just sit there and be aware of your thoughts and feelings. If you have never done this, you can see already how foreign mindfulness may be to us. It is so challenging to sit still for just a few minutes when the world encourages us to keep moving, keep interacting.
This type of exercise is the first step in connecting with yourself and taking control of the stress life may place on us. Here are my top tips to practicing mindfulness everyday. Start with just a few and incorporate more as life goes on. Soon, your day/week will be filled with mindful activities and you’ll find yourself feeling less and less affected by stress.
TOP FIVE TIPS FOR REDUCING STRESS
1. Mindful meditation, morning and night. Perhaps you are brand new to meditation or an advanced practicer. Whether you meditate for 5 or 20 minutes twice a day, the key is to just get started. Long-term medication has been associated iwth a significant decrease in emotionally reactive behavior. If you are that person who gets agitated with traffic or long lines, this is the practice for you. You may find free resources at MeditationOasis.com or search for their meditation apps on your phone to get started.
2. Disconnect from technology. Have you ever found yourself on the computer, endlessly browsing the internet for hours? Getting lost in reruns of reality tv? Playing games on your phone or constantly checking your email? Companies have made interacting with technology more fun and easy than ever, but at the cost of us disconnecting with ourselves. Start by mindfully agreeing to spend at least one hour a night doing something that doesn’t involve technology – perhaps even some of the things on this list!
3. Walking with mindfulness. We can often times be rushed to get from one place to another. Practice mindful walking by putting your phone and ipod away. Slow your steps. Be aware of your breath. Listen to the sounds, buildings, and people that surround you. Stop and sit for a few minutes and really connect with simply being. This can be a great activity to do twice a day at work for even just 5-10 minutes.
4. Eating mindfully. Meals are another thing we tend to rush through. If we’re stressed, perhaps we lean on food to fill us up and make us happy for a moment. Stressful, rushed eating is never healthy for us – but it happens. Slow down. Before you take a bite, look at your plate and observe things you may not have noticed before. What is the texture of your food? Notice the colors and where changes occur. Explore your meal with all your senses. Explore its texture and perhaps its smell. Take a small bit of it in your mouth, becoming aware that your mouth is watering. Place it on your tongue without biting into it and explore the texture and taste for a moment. Bite down, noticing how the flavors burst in your mouth. Slowly chew and swallow. Congratulations on taking the first step towards mindful eating!
5. Stretch. If you’re feeling too anxious or stressed to practice meditation, stretching can be a great way for you to move around and connect with your body. It is something I practice at the beginning of all my days – the very first thing I do in the morning. Just like meditation, this type of repetitive practice can bring a true sense of regular awareness where it had not been before. Start small and work big.
Elise May, CN + LE, is the owner and practitioner behind SKINutritious. She has helped over 1,000 clients clear acne with detoxing treatments, clear skin coaching, and holistic skincare.
Work with Elise. Book online here.