Your brain and skin are directly connected. Recent research has shown that your skin can register stress and respond to it.
Prolonged stressful times may impact your psychological health and skin, which is the largest organ of your body. Your skin regulates your body temperature, protects your body, senses external stimuli, and keeps a hydration balance in your body. Anxiety, grief, many other emotions and pain cause hormonal changes that have an effect on your skin. Stress will affect the appearance of the skin, nails, and hair.
Your skin has a direct connection to your brain. When something stressful happens, your immune system releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline as a reaction to perceived or real threats. Your body's response to stressors results in brain inflammation in a bid to cope with the change. When stress becomes prolonged, this internal inflammatory response can lead to external signs in the skin, such as acne and eczema.
My 10 top tips to help with stress
Do a little writing
· First thing in the morning set a timer for 2 minutes and write longhand, a stream of consciousness, writing about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only.
· You could also try some journaling. Go over the day in your mind and write down how different events have made you feel. This will help you stop ruminating while you’re trying to go to sleep.
· At the end of the day, write a list of things down that you want to tackle the next day. Writing things down will get them out of your head which will in turn help you to sleep better. And sleep is so important for self-care.
Do something you enjoy
If we don’t spend any time doing things we enjoy, we end up irritable and unhappy. So, take some time out every day and do something you love. Whether that’s reading, baking, knitting, tinkering in the shed or garage, gardening, cuddling with your pet, listening to music, playing an instrument – you choose. Watch your overall mood soar. Make sure as Marie Kondo says, to “spark joy!”
Connect with people
Don’t try and cope with everything on your own. Find people you can talk to. You can find local Meet Up groups online for all different kinds of interests. Maybe you’re looking for a support group or a social group. Connecting doesn’t have to be in person; it also works well over the phone or via apps such as Skype or Zoom. Who can you call and connect with?
Taking time out to exercise is not only great for your physical health but also mentally. Exercising releases endorphins that stabilise your mood. Going for a mindful walk that gets your heart rate up works wonders for many people. The key think here again is joy. Have a look online from Zumba to yoga, find an activity that brings you joy. It could be dancing or cycling! Self-care should be fun.
Practicing mindfulness means being in the moment and experiencing something will all your senses. There are many different exercises you can do, such as eating a raisin mindfully (about 5 minutes). It doesn’t have to take hours to practice mindfulness, a few minutes here and there can really ground you and bring you out of a mental tailspin by bringing you back to the here and now.
Another activity that you can anywhere and anytime is meditation. And again, you don’t have to do it for hours. When you first start you will probably find it impossible to meditate for more than a few minutes anyway as your mind will take a little while to get the memo that it’s time to relax. You could start with my 3 Minute Breathing Space – a mini meditation you can download.
Hygge – relaxing the Danish way
You might have come across the Danish tradition of Hygge. It’s the concept of cosiness. How can you make your surroundings cosy and comfortable? Snuggling up with a book under a cuddly blanket with a lit scented candle is the ultimate form of Hygge. Does this appeal to you? Then go for it. Laura Williams from Organised Well has some great ideas on adapting your surroundings to feel more “you.”
Rest when you can
Ideally, you’ll be getting around 8 hours of sleep. This will go a long way to keeping mentally healthy. If we don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to anxiety, depression and even chronic illnesses. This is because sleep helps to regulate chemicals in the brain that manage our body, mood and emotions.
Taking a power nap during the day (ideally between 1 and 3pm) can help to give you a boost if your energy is waning after lunch. This is also good for preventing dementia.
Take time to look and feel your best. Even if this means that you get up a few minutes earlier. Having a refreshing shower can set you up well for the day. Go shopping in your wardrobe and find clothes that make you have (as Lisa Newport Style) advises “comfydence”. Spending an evening giving yourself a manicure and/or pedicure can leave you feeling pampered and relaxed without spending any money. You can even put on some soothing spa music, light some candles and use your fluffiest towels. Spoil yourself!
Cooking from scratch
Cooking your meals from scratch instead of relying on ready meals or even take outs will not only save you tons of money in the long term but also improve your health and wellbeing. You know what goes into your meals, as you’re preparing them. No artificial colours and flavours, tons of sugar or artificial sweeteners – all of which negatively impact your mental health. Feeding your body healthy food is an important part of self-care.
Also stay away from pre-cut, pre-peeled fruit and veg. Chopping your own will cut down on your food waste as the pre-packaged varieties go off much quicker. It is also cheaper as you don’t pay someone else to do it for you. You can make chopping and prepping your raw ingredients part of your mindfulness practice. If you are short on time during the week, cook double the amount on the weekends and freeze, so you have your own ready meals. Susan Hart, Nutrition Coach has some great ideas for simple, delicious and healthy meals.
How Can I Help You?
For many years I have worked with clients who struggle with anxiety, stress and the behaviours that can arise such as overeating, phobias and chronic pain.
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