Stress has become the currency for success in life. Conversations usually evolve around “Oh I’m so busy” and the other part replying “Oh but look at me. I’m busier”. And if you’re not busy. Too bad. You can’t sit with us.
Stress however is also one of the biggest enemies of healthy and glowing skin. Apart from the most obvious results such as breakouts such dark circles and undereye puffiness due to sleepless nights, stress could also be responsible for dull and lackluster skin, scarring, eczema flare-ups or dryness.
The good news is that stress is not a must in our life. We can’t control what happens around us but we can control how we react to it – will I allow stress to take over my life or will I be in charge?
Prevention is always the best antidote to stress and that’s why in this article I shared how I start my day to make sure I am in control of my day, not stress. As for the moments when stress has already taken over, this article is for you.
Here’s how I deal with stress and keep my skin stress-free.
Awareness, mindfulness, noticing how you feel, call it as you may, is the first and the most important step. Then comes the most difficult part - to stop whatever you’re doing (obviously not if you’re driving or doing a surgery). This is very hardest because you're caught up in the activity and your brain is screaming and pushing you to go twice the speed. As difficult as it is to resist the urge to do even more things and to do them faster, this is how you take charge of the situation. You have to stop.
I normally go for a glass of water as I find it easier to replace doing one thing with another than doing a million things (in my mind) to doing nothing.
When we’re stressed we breathe shallow. Give it a try – take a few short and shallow breaths for a while and you will notice you’re getting anxious.
This is also one of the reasons why smokers light a cigarette when they’re stressed - it helps them take a deep breath, deliver oxygen to their lungs and body, and relax. I guess in a way the joke smokers make when they say that they go “breathing” is true indeed.
After I’ve had a glass of water, I usually stand erect (sitting is also good) and do a short deep breathing exercise – I take a deep breath with my abdominal for 4 counts, hold for 16 and breathe out for 8. I repeat this 8-10 times and try to focus on my breath. When I’m stressed I find my mind roaming around, mostly going back to what I was busy with and that’s OK. I simply return my thoughts to counting my breathing.
You could also breathe in for 5, hold for 20 and breathe out for 10. The ratio is 1-4-2.
While breathing alone is already great and you will notice feeling much calmer, I highly recommend using some plant essence to boost your mood.This is where I reach for one of my aromatherapy buddies.
I used to look at aromatherapy as woo-woo stuff. Maybe because I didn’t really understand it at the time or because I was raised with the belief that the truth lies in the facts so anything touchy-feely is weird and complete nonsense.
If this is how you feel about aromatherapy, you can skin this step. Breathing alone would already help tremendously BUT if you’re curious and have a thing for science backed up claims, have a look at this interview with Prof. Moran Cerf (go to 37:27 although I highly recommend watching the entire video) where he talks about science, brain and scents. One of the examples he gives is that in controlled settings they help people quit smoking by introducing a certain scent to their brain at the right moment, while they sleep!
Now back to tackling stress.
After I’ve stopped, had my glass of water, did my deep breathing exercises, I would roll one of my favorite plant essences onto the palm of my hand, rub both hands against each other, cup my mouth and take three deep breaths. You don’t need to count but do make sure you take your time. Don’t rush through this, do breathe deep and allow the essences to do their magic.
If my insecurities have kicked in and I need encouragement, I’d reach out for Spiritual Warrior. The scent is very delicate and unique. I don’t know how Laurel has done it but a whiff of the Spiritual Warrior gives me that feeling of a gentle hug from a friend telling me it’s all going to be OK. Writing these words, I realize how crazy this sounds but it is what it is. If my engineering brain can experience it, can you imagine how powerful it is?
For the rest of the situations I use Happiness. My all-time favorite. I absolutely adore the scent and although I was very skeptical when I heard the name “Happiness” (after all, you can’t bottle happiness, right!) it works. It absolutely does. The beautiful scent of Happiness causes a subtle shift in my mood and all of a sudden happiness is on the menu again.
This is another terrifying, counterintuitive thing to do - when you have so much on your head to choose to do nothing. Don’t worry it gets easier.
The point here is to do something different than what you were busy with (and stressing about) but stay away from phone, email and internet. I either put a song I love and dance or if I have more time, I’d take Max out for a short walk.
Now that I have stepped out of the situation which was causing me stress, literally and in my mind, I do a quick reassessment. Why was I stressing? Do I really need to do all these things or can I be smarter about them? Should I ask for help? You would be surprised to see that there’s always another way, that it is not as bad as it was when you were in the middle of it.
It may sound like a LOT of work and time but in reality, it takes as little as 10 mins. Once you have taken the most important step by noticing you’re stressed AND you have stepped away from the situation, the rest becomes much easier. I guarantee you that when you look back at your day, you would always be glad you took the time to reset yourself.
I also use this technique when I find myself being frustrated or angry, especially when my daughter puts my patience to the test. It’s a very simple thing to, although by all means not easy, yet very, very effective.
Let me know what you do when you’re stressed. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.