Typical. You've got a mountain of work, a looming deadline for a major presentation, your credit card is chocked and now your skin's erupted. Coincidence? Not at all. Read on to find out what stress does to your skin and why, plus some tips to get your body, soul and skin back on track.
What exactly does stress do to your skin?
The 'fight or flight' mechanism allows the body to respond quickly to situations where we are under threat. Thousands of years ago, this allowed our ancestors to run away from danger - like a bear lurking in the back of that nice, cosy looking cave they wandered into.
Today, we are still under considerable stress. But it usually doesn't come from situations we literally need to run away from. After all, running screaming from your boss when she asks you to work late might be appealing but probably isn't practical. So, we just swallow the stress and carry on.
Meanwhile, the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients is directed to the areas of the body considered vital for responding to the emergency and withdrawn from areas such as the skin.
Of course, having to work late, missing the bus or dealing with someone rude on the phone are frequent, often daily, stressors. This means that our skin is consistently starved of both blood and oxygen, making it dull and lifeless, less supple, less hydrated and more prone to clogged pores and breakouts.
Heard enough? Wait, there's more! Stress also undermines the digestion which in turn affects skin health because your body can't absorb all the nutrients from the foods you eat. AND stress increases the amount of testosterone circulating in the body, which leads to breakouts.
How to soothe stressed skin
It would be unhelpful of us to point out that you should avoid stress. True, you should... but what if you can't take a holiday, pack your kids off to your mums or ask for an extension on that work project?
Well, luckily there are some simple, band-aid solutions to soothe your stressed skin (and soul!) until you can make some adjustments to your lifestyle.
1. Take a ten minute walk, twice a day. Make it somewhere you can see nature, even if it's just a patch of grass. No matter how busy you are, you can spare twenty minutes a day to calm yourself, breathe deeply and regain your perspective.
You could also treat yourself to a spritz of lavender oil and water over your face whenever you need to calm and centre yourself. The KORA Organics Calming Lavender Mist will also protect your skin from the office air conditioner!
2. If you are having trouble sleeping, try burning some lavender oil in an oil burner before you hop into bed. The soothing scent can help you drift off. If your muscles ache, try a lavender heat pack which can be gently warmed in the microwave.
3. Try not to resort to high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, even if that is what you are craving. If you're in a rush, find time to grab a (sugar-free) fruit smoothie, an apple or a salad, rather than a donut. Or as well as a donut, if you must!
4. Don't depend on endless cups of coffee to keep you going. Caffeine dehydrates the skin and strains the kidneys, making you look older and potentially leading to breakouts.
5. Use a gentle, hydrating cleanser to avoid irritating your skin. Follow this with a facial oil - less likely to clog pores than a cream.