Stress is one of those things that we all deal with, but because it's so commonplace I'm not sure that we really understand how it affects us. We can get so used to feeling a certain way that we don't realize that it's not normal. 2020 piled a collective stress on top of everything in our lives that already stresses us out, and for many people, it's been a challenge to manage. Almost 50% of people have trouble sleeping due to stress, and 77% of people experience stress that affects their physical health. Up to 80% of workplace related accidents are due to stress or stress related problems such as being tired or distracted. Around 33% of people report feeling extreme stress. EXTREME! Yikes! Not good. Money problems, family issues, trouble in relationships, problems at work...stress comes at us from all angles, so we have to do what we can to manage it. What works for one person might not work for another, so feel free to try a few things until you find your stress reduction sweet spot! And I promise, I won't suggest anything that isn't simple to implement.
Before we go into ways to help reduce stress, let's talk about what stress does to us. Stress can contribute to many health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, can cause hair loss or graying hair, increased sensitivity to pain, fertility issues, ringing in the ears, increased bloating and flatulence, increased urination or diarrhea, skin problems like acne, eczema or psoriasis, weakened immune system, insomnia, over or under eating, loss of sexual desire/inability to perform, headaches, low energy, muscle pain and/or tension, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, irritability, overwhelm, depression, anxiety...not to mention all of the issues some of these things can cause in our relationships. You get the jist. All of the bad stuff that life has to offer, stress can bring it out or exacerbate it. Some people are filled with so much stress and anxiety that they don't realize that it's not a normal way to feel. Honestly, I didn't realize that I had anxiety until I was in my late twenties, despite having what I now know are panic attacks (and many other symptoms) most of my life. I seriously thought it was just a part of my personality-it had never occurred to me that I should tell a doctor about it. I bet some of you can relate!
Skin wise...while stress doesn't exactly cause acne, the effects of stress can exacerbate it. Not sleeping well, drinking too much alcohol to cope with stress, and increased cortisol production that stimulates oil release from sebaceous glands are factors. Sleep deprivation also leads to signs of aging, such as loss of elasticity, fine lines, and wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, and puffy eyes. Stress also impairs your skin's barrier function, which can make it dry and itchy. Because stress weakens the immune system, it's common to see that show up on the skin. On top of all the "maskne," I can't even tell you how many examples of eczema or unexplained rashes I've seen over the past several months-the collective stress that 2020 brought upon us really did a number! I've been going through a ton of Hale & Hush's Hush Hydrate and Relief Bio Powder combo in the treatment room, lemme tell ya. Aside from suggesting proper home care, one of the first things I tell my clients who are experiencing major breakouts is that they should try adding meditation to their life. It doesn't have to be meditation, though! Try any of the stress reducing activities mentioned and see how your skin looks in a month or two. Fact is, stress affects the skin and we've got to do what we can to keep it in check. So many of the symptoms of stress are things we experience regularly, like headaches, low energy, breakouts, digestive issues, or trouble sleeping, and we simply consider them a regular part of life. But they don't have to be! There are things that we can do to lower our stress levels and improve our quality of life.
To reduce stress, I'm going to start with the one thing we all know will help-exercise. Ugh, I know. But I don't mind exercising, really. The hard part is finding the time in my busy schedule to do it. I know that the majority of my clients are busy bees themselves, so I'm sure you can relate. But just 30 minutes 3-4 times a week can make a huge difference in reducing stress hormones in our bodies! You don't need a gym membership to do it, either. I have a subscription to yourdailywalk.com, which is a collection of workouts by Leslie Sansone, the Walk Away the Pounds creator. There's a different workout for each of the 30 days of the month, but you can also mix and match. This subscription is just $4.99 per month and the workouts are great and provide variety. Perfect for beginners or for advanced levels, each workout can be modified just for you, right in front of your TV. My husband and I do it together and we love the positive changes that we see from the workouts. A huge difference in mental health, I'm telling you. Yoga is exercise that is a great stress reducer as well, and there are many free videos on YouTube to follow (I love Yoga with Adriene!). Even just going outside for a walk counts. Or putting on a playlist and dancing around like a crazy person. Find something you like (or can at least tolerate) and get moving!
Meditation is something that I used to do with ease, but the last year or so it has proved really challenging for me. Of course, that just means I need it more than ever. It's something that anyone can do from anywhere, and doesn't have to take up a lot of time. Even taking one minute meditation breaks several times a day has shown positive changes in stress reduction. YouTube is a great resource for this as well-there are SO many free videos that you can use. Meditations can be just relaxing music or sounds, or can be guided (which I think is most helpful for beginners). Box breathing is great for beginners (breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4, repeat). I think a 5 minute meditation is a great starting point, but you can honestly do it as long as you want. There is no need to sit cross legged on the floor and chant, either. You can do this on your couch if you want. To fit it into my schedule, I get to work about 5-10 minutes early and set a timer to focus on my breathing. Some people like to do it right when waking up, some right before bed...play around with your schedule to see what works best for you! There are so many studies that show that meditation helps reduce blood pressure, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, etc. Try a 30 day challenge and see how you feel.
Reducing caffeine intake is a suggested stress reduction idea, so let's all laugh at that and move on to the next one.
Journaling can be a huge help, I know this not just from the studies that prove it, but also because I've kept a journal since I was 8 years old. Seriously, I kind of hope that one day I build an empire or something, because I have a ton of material for whoever wants to write a biography on me (and I am married to a writer, so at least I know I'd be painted in a positive light...I hope). Writing things down is helpful for our brains to release things that are weighing on it, but it also can help us to see patterns in our behaviors. Realizing what our triggers are can help us to make different choices, or at least approach issues with a better perspective. Knowledge is power, y'all.
We have enough to do in a day, but I'm going to suggest that you add something else-pick a hobby! Distracting our brains with something creative can be a huge stress reducer. Hobbies don't have to be terribly time consuming or expensive. There are plenty of things that you can do from home that are low cost and take just a few minutes. Even if you're only setting a timer for 15 minute hobby breaks, you're helping your brain to reduce stress. There are tons of adult coloring books out there, which is one of my favorite ways to unwind. My husband loves word finds. Painting, drawing, knitting, weaving, settling in with a good book, growing herbs or keeping plants alive, board game nights, writing poems or short stories, creating collages, scrapbooking, candle making, learning a new language (there are lots of apps for this-try Duolingo!), take a free online course (google has lots of options depending on your interests!), rearrange your furniture/clean out your closets, create Cards for Hospitalized Kids (cardsforhospitalizedkids.com)...there are so many options. Pinterest is a great resource to search for things you're interested in. You might want to try out a few to see what your vibe is!
Stop mindlessly scrolling. Set a timer when you feel like checking in with friends and family or what's going on in the world. We spend (ahem...waste) so much time on social media keeping up with people that we don't even know or like, and all of that eye rolling can equate to stress, even if it doesn't feel like it. I know that I can't be alone in getting stressed out from other people's posts sometimes. But we're in charge of how we spend our time, and we can control how much time we spend scrolling.
Getting some sunshine is good for you. There are many studies that show how depression can worsen during darker months, so it can be especially important in the winter. Of course, regardless of season, you don't want to be outside without sunscreen. Protecting your skin is important, but feel free to smile up at the sun for a few minutes a day. Get outside for a walk, and then it's a double whammy on that stress reduction!
Alright...You didn't think I was going to write a blog post about stress reduction and not promote my business somehow, right? But it's true-facials help lower stress! Other than extractions, every part of a facial feels nice. What's better than a facial massage? Or an upper body massage while your mask is doing its magic? Massage increases endorphins (happy chemicals) in the brain and helps to decrease cortisol (stress chemicals). I offer several different facial treatment options that work for any budget or lifestyle, and each one will have you feeling better than you did before you arrived. The Willows, where my business is located, also offers several different massage options. Peek at the services that Lori offers and plan a relaxing day with us! You can't go wrong.
Remember that "stress free" is impossible to attain, so don't beat yourself up for not feeling like a zen master all of the time. Even if you're just spending a few minutes a day retraining your brain, you're doing something positive for your mind and body. Try just one or two of these suggestions for a month and see if you feel any different! I'd love to know how it goes. Perhaps we should do it together? Maybe a two week challenge? Hmmm...yes, I think so. Peep my social media for the details!
love & lipstick (& serotonin),