Each time you feel stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol through your body. This can lead to everything from inflammation and accelerated aging, to acne and other blemishes.
While keeping stress levels to a minimum may be easier said than done, here are 10 techniques to try that have been proven to lower stress, and therefore help clear up the skin.
There are several methods out there when it comes to lowering stress, but exercise has been proven to be one of the most effective of them all.
Here are just a few of the ways in which exercise can help with stress:
- Increases the production of endorphins, which quickly elevates the mood
- Focusing on a single physical activity helps to clear the mind of anxieties, while improving calmness and clarity
- Regular exercise can do everything from reduce depression and anxiety to improve quality of sleep, all of which can help to lower stress levels in the long run
In addition to directly targeting stress levels, exercise also benefits the skin by increasing blood flow. This helps to nourish the skin, while any waste products get carried away much quicker.
Wondering what type of exercise works best?
Aerobic exercises seem to be the most effective, but just about any physical activity will be able to help with stress levels. The key here is to pick something that you enjoy doing, as this will keep you motivated and help you to develop a regular exercise regime.
Have a Laugh
Have you ever heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine”?
Well, this could not be more true when it comes to treating stress.
In the short term, here are a few of the benefits that you will experience after having a good laugh:
- Cools down stress response
- Eases anxiety and improves mood
- Enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, which then stimulates your organs and increases endorphins released by the brain
- Stimulates circulation while helping to relax the muscles, which lasts for up to 45 minutes after laughing
When it comes to laughter’s long term health benefits, here is what you can expect to see:
- Improved immune system
- Heart protection
- Longer lifespan
- Pain relief
- Higher personal satisfaction
But what if you are so stressed that you are simply not finding anything funny?
The answer is…
Even stimulated laughter will have similar benefits to real laughter, and, once you get yourself into the habit of smiling and laughing more, it will not be long before this starts to come more naturally to you, even during times of extreme stress.
Breathing Exercises and Mindful Meditation
Meditation is such a great way to lower stress levels, but can often seem like quite a daunting activity to some.
If meditation is new to you, the best way to get started is by doing some breathing exercises. This is considered to be a form of “entry level” meditation, as it teaches you to clear your mind and focus on your breathing, both of which meditation promotes.
So, how exactly do you get started?
Begin by sitting down in a comfortable position, with your spine erect. Then, focus your mind on the natural sensation of each breath that you take, following the cycle from inhalation to the end of exhalation.
It is important that you do not try to control your breathing, and instead just follow it the way it is, whether this may long and deep or short and shallow.
At the beginning, it is natural for other thoughts to enter into your mind, but each time this happens, simply nudge your attention back towards your breathing.
Herbs have long since been used to treat a variety of physical and mental health issues, one of which is stress. An easy way to make use of the power of herbs yourself is by drinking herbal teas.
Here are a few teas to try to help lower your stress levels:
- Chamomile – stabilizes the mood and soothes nerves. A great one to have at night as it also induces sleep
- Skullcap – relaxes tense muscles, calms nerves and eases headaches. Also helps with stress and irritability caused by PMS
- Lavender – reduces nervous exhaustion, as well as headaches that have been brought on by stress
- Ginseng – clears the mind of stress and mental exhaustion, and promotes peacefulness and calmness. Also good to help with sleep
- Lemon Balm – reduces cortisol in the body while promoting relaxation, without causing drowsiness. Also helps with elevating the mood.
- Passion Flower – contains a flavone called chrysin, which has anti-anxiety benefits
These herbal teas are also packed with antioxidants, all of which will nourish your skin, while the extra hydration never hurts either.
Aromatherapy has been practised for centuries, and refers to the use of essential plant oils as a way to improve one’s health and well-being. In the USA, one of the most common uses for aromatherapy is in treating stress.
These essential oils can be used in different ways, from diffusing them into the air to massaging them into acupressure points on your body.
However, there are specific oils that you need to use…
Yuzu, which is an East Asian fruit, is a great one, and a recent study has shown that this citrus scent can reduce stress and lower heart rate in just ten minutes. What makes this even better is that the effects of this will last for up to an hour.
Ylang Ylang also comes from Asia, and has a sweet and floral scent to it. This oil is able to calm the nervous system and relax the mind, which leads to a lower heart rate and a decrease in blood pressure.
Clary Sage is a close relative to common garden sage, and has been shown to have incredible effects that are similar to antidepressants.
Marjoram is an interesting one, as it has been shown to provide relief from emotional pain and grief, while vetiver is a grounding oil that will cool any flared emotions.
Schedule in Some “Me Time”
No matter how busy you may be, you need to learn how to take some time out from your hectic schedule for yourself.
Because this allows your body to rest and recharge. If it is not able to do this on a regular basis, you will experience everything from a lowered immune system to a lack of energy to a higher susceptibility to stress.
Ideally, you should be able to set aside a small amount of “me time” each day, even if this is only for half an hour.
Wondering what to do during this “me” time?
Here are a few ideas:
- Read a book or magazine, as studies have shown that those who read tend to be more relaxed
- Cook something, as this can clear the mind, plus provide a sense of accomplishment at the finished product
- Spend time in nature, whether this may be walking your dog or sitting by your local river
- Treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure, a massage, or an afternoon at a spa
It is important not to feel guilty or selfish about taking this time out for yourself, and it will not be long before you are able to actually see the benefits that some “me time” can have when it comes to relieving stress.
Turn On Some Music
The ability that music has to soothe the mind has been studied to a great extent, with music having quite the unique connection to a person’s emotional state.
Wondering how exactly music is able to lower stress?
Music can do everything from reducing your heart rate to decreasing your blood pressure to easing anxiety, making it a great tool to use during times of immense stress.
But what type of music is the most effective?
Research has shown that slow-paced instrumental music, such as the classical, Celtic and Native American genres, is best when it comes to reducing stress, but this does not mean that other types of music will not work either.
No matter the type of music you like, be it heavy metal or bouncy pop, listening to some tunes, and even having a little sing-along, can do wonders for your stress levels.
Have a difficult time getting to sleep at night due to stress?
Try playing some calming music before you head to bed, as this will promote relaxation and induce sleep.
Surround Yourself With Animals
Spending time around animals has been proven, by multiple studies, to lower stress levels, and it does so in a variety of different ways.
To begin with, each time you touch an animal, endorphins are released into your body, and these will immediately reduce your heart rate, instantly making you feel calmer. In addition to this, the oxytocin that is now in your body will help to slow down production of cortisol, meaning that your stress levels will not immediately rise again once you stop petting the animal.
Animals are also known to be extremely therapeutic, which is why everything from dogs to rabbits become therapy animals, to help those in hospitals or schools.
In addition to all of these stress-relieving benefits, studies have also found that those who spend time around animals are able to keep their blood pressure lower during times of stress, compared to those who do not interact with animals.
Don’t have a pet?
That’s ok, because there are many other ways in which you can surround yourself with animals:
- Visit a local wildlife reserve
- Volunteer at your local animal shelter
- Walk someone else’s dog a few times a week
- Go to an animal-related event, such as a dog show
- Offer to pet-sit for friends and family
It can be easy to allow stress to overtake your mind, but this is not only bad for your general health, it will also have negative effects on your skin. To prevent this from happening, give some of these stress-relieving methods a try, as you never know what may end up really working for you.
Write it Down
The act of writing to help with stress relief is referred to as expressive writing, and while it does not work for everyone, it can have some fantastic benefits for some:
- Writing clarifies your thoughts and helps you to look at your stressors from a different perspective
- Writing is meditative
- Writing helps to induce sleep
- Writing releases anger
- Writing can help you to come up with solutions for your problems
- Writing slows your breathing, allowing more oxygen to enter into your brain
But how do you get started?
Simply grab a pen and a piece of paper and begin writing. It does not matter what you write about, whether you scribble down your thoughts about why you are stressed, or write a letter to a friend, as it is the actual process of writing that relieves stress and brings peace to the mind.
Try to do this for 20 minutes when you are next feeling stressed, and see whether or not it helps.
A Touch of Yoga
While it is not fully understood exactly how yoga is able to lower stress levels, there is no denying that it can do so to quite an extent. It is currently believed that this has something to do with the effect that yoga has on the nervous system, as well as the way in which the body responds to stress.
Research has shown that yoga has the potential to lower cortisol levels, as well as blood pressure and heart rate. In some cases, yoga can be just as effective as antidepressant drugs when it comes to treating anxiety and depression.
Never done yoga before?
Have a look online, as you will find many yoga sequences designed for beginners. Start off with something slow and easy, doing a sequence that lasts for just 15-20 minutes, and then build this up as you become more accustomed to it.