You'll Never Believe What Stress Can Do To Your Skin: An M.D. Explains
Without even seeing you in my office, I can accurately diagnose one thing: You're stressed. The truth is we all are.
In today's always-on world, we are faced with tremendous demands that our bodies have not evolved fast enough to handle. We are exceedingly digitally connected yet less human-to-human connected than ever before. This stress of modern living, what I refer to as "cultural stress", is wearing us down and it's negatively affecting our skin and overall health in profound ways.
Let me explain.
For example, did you know that the blue light from your digital devices can accelerate visible signs of aging? In fact, four days in front of your laptop is the equivalent to 20 minutes in the midday sun. Or that dehydration leads to fine lines and wrinkles? It's true. When our cells are not fully hydrated, they deteriorate and cannot function at their peak level, leading to the tissue damage we refer to as aging.
Adrenal glands are in charge of regulating stress, and when stressful situations arise, these glands stimulate our oil glands to secrete more oil. This excess oil sets the stage for acne development; stress also causes increased blood flow and inflammation, which causes your skin to appear red. There is a reason happiness can make your skin glow; the connection between our psychological well-being and physical health is powerful. Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress, but we are not equipped to handle constant and pervasive stress, like what we are faced with in modern life: the never-ending work emails, unrealistic social media expectations, or self-imposed isolation.
But there's plenty to be hopeful about. In fact, there are a many simple, easy tips for coping with my concept of "cultural stress" and living a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life:
1. Beware of creating your own stress.
I believe a healthy life is all about balance. Don’t stress yourself out by trying too hard to reduce stress! For example, during dinner with your family or partner this evening, put your phone in another room. Really focus on the people you’re with. You’ll be amazed by the healing power of living in the moment.
2. Isolation can be a self-imposed prison.
Did you know friendship might be the best form of medicine? Really. A ten-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. And in 2008, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age.
When was the last time you truly, deeply connected with your partner or child or parent? It’s important we spend time “eyes up” in the world, rather than head-down, buried in work email or our smartphones.
3. The best is yet to come; you just have to let it enter.
It’s crucial to relax! Stress will always be a part of our lives but the key is to keep unnecessary stress at bay. Here are some ideas to think about this week:
- Can you plan your mornings better so you’re not as harried?
- Can you take a recess for some deep breathing or meditation when problems present themselves and your mind starts to race?
- Can you get outside more to enjoy the calming force of nature?
We are each born with a unique commodity called life. It is stressed by the environment, but it is up to us to make the best of it.
Here's to living a happier, healthier life!
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