December 16, 2011

How Stress Can EAT YOUR FACE!

I suppose a more professional title for this piece would be "Preventing and Treating Stress-Induced Breakouts," but I didn't think that would garner as large a readership as this new and improved title doubtlessly will ;-)

The long and short of it is, we all know that our skin always looks the worst when we are under stress--which only makes us more stressed, am I right? You just can't win, it seems.

Well, actually, you can. Of course, it might mean doing some things that you aren't necessarily willing to incorporate into your stressful schedule. I hope you can trust me that I'm preaching to myself as well here. As humans, we so often get consumed by stressful circumstances. Some of us overwork ourselves, trying to complete everything that is expected of us. Others procrastinate, which ultimately only causes more stress.

Really? I'm supposed to believe that you're stressed? Look at your skin!
Whatever causes your stress, you certainly don't want to advertise it on your face. Sadly, stress constricts blood vessels and causes strain on all of your bodily systems. Anything that impacts your health like this is bound to impact your looks as well. Closed blood vessels alone can cause skin to turn pale with red blotches as blood tries to reach the surface of the skin to release pent-up body heat and toxins. We're not just talking about acne. We're talking an all-around sallow, sad complexion.

Here are some tips for treating your skin issues and getting at the stress that might be causing them.

Hydrate

What it does for skin: Drinking water improves blood flow, opening the blood vessels near the surface of your skin which relaxes pores and flushes out impurities. Staying hydrated also makes your skin more elastic, so none of that saggy, baggy, dullness.

What it does for stress: This will literally make everything in your life better. Keeping plenty of water in your system ups your blood volume so your heart and lungs don't have to work as hard to circulate and oxygenate blood. You'll feel less tired. Improved blood flow also allows your brain to function better. This decreases anxiety, improves mood, and increases motivation

Moisturize and massage

What it does for skin: Facial moisturizing in the form of lotion has many of the skin benefits of staying hydrated. Furthermore, massaging lotion into your face will also improve blood flow. Not only this, but a massage's ability to relieve muscular tension will keep facial skin looking toned and relaxed.

What it does for stress: Um, have you ever had a massage with lotion? Wait, I don't actually want to know the answer to that . . . Just trust me that it's super relaxing.

Don't touch blemishes!

What it does for skin: I know! The temptation is terrible when those whiteheads start appearing! "But if I pop it, it will just go away . . ." Not true. Popping a pimple allows all of the bacteria and toxins that were previously under the surface of your skin to get all over the surrounding skin and enter other pores, particularly the open one you just irritated by popping a zit. Just continue washing your face regularly and gently, and the little monster will go away on its own.

What it does for stress: Well, I have to admit, popping pimples can actually be quite stress relieving . . . temporarily. In the long run, you'll feel much better when that one zit doesn't turn into two or seven or twelve.

Exercise

What it does for skin: Have I mentioned blood flow? Healthy circulation is so important for skin health and, indeed, whole-body wellness. Your bloodstream is the agent that carries nutrients where they are needed and toxins to where they can be disposed of.

What it does for stress: Everything! Aside from the fact that spending a half-hour or so going for a quiet jog alone can calm down the clutter in your mind, exercise releases endorphins. These guys are practically feel-good hormones! What more could you want in a stress-reliever? Yoga specifically is an incredibly relaxing form of physical exercise.

Remove makeup before bed

What it does for skin: This is so often the first thing that goes when life gets hectic, but spending all night with foreign substances on your skin will clog pores and create more breakouts. Removing your makeup will keep your pores cleansed and enable your skin to breathe and heal all night long.

What it does for stress: The routine of washing one's face at night can be very relaxing and quite refreshing as you wipe away all of the difficulties of the day.

Cucumber

What it does for skin: Cucumber masks are perfect for drawing impurities to the surface, reducing zits. Cucumber is also one of the best remedies for facial redness and puffiness. Bye bye, under-eye baggies!

What it does for stress: Well, eating cucumber and indeed any vegetable not only keeps you hydrated but also delivers much needed vitamins and minerals to your wigged-out body. Among other nutrients, cucumber specifically is high in vitamins A and C which remove toxins from the body as well as pantothenic acid, a regulating agent for the adrenal system. Also look for foods high in B vitamins, Vitamin E, and zinc.

Don't binge 

What it does for skin: Avoiding the temptation to overeat when stressed, particularly when it comes to fatty and sugary foods, will keep your skin from needing to work overtime to filter out all of the gunk you are putting into your body. Skin is an elimination organ, so many toxins escape the body in the form of pimples. Alcohol will also worsen acne because it is an astringent that shrinks pores, keeping the toxins from escaping.

What it does for stress: It is no secret that eating more healthfully makes one feel better all around, but enjoying everything in moderation is also a key to a stress-free life. 

Get quiet 

This should probably be the first thing you try. Often, taking a step back from whatever is causing your stress and just spending some quiet time recharging in a safe environment will do wonders. For me and many of my friends and family, this means spending time with God and "casting all my cares on Him." For others it may mean meditation or other forms of relaxation and encouragement. The important thing is, when you've been pouring out for so long that you can't take the pressure anymore, it's time to stop and fill up.

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