Stress is generally viewed as something that is bad for our health on many levels but it’s important to know that there is a difference between good stress and bad stress.
Good stress – A certain amount of stress can challenge us and help us to use our problem solving skills.
Nervous energy can be channeled positively into achieving goals and accomplishing tasks.
When we come through a stressful situation we may find that we have grown in wisdom and maturity – we can become stronger, more knowledgeable and better equipped to handle life’s stresses and strains in the future.
Bad stress – Chronic ongoing stress however is not so good for us and if it goes on for too long can lead to ill health.
Too much stress can make us feel out of control and exhausted and may lead to medical conditions such as high blood pressure.
Stress And Your Body
When we are stressed our bodies produce more of the ‘fight or flight’ hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. These are the hormones that prepare your body for physical exertion by increasing the heart rate and releasing fatty acids and glucose into the bloodstream.
For our hunter-gatherer ancestors this was a necessary function as it helped them when fighting rival tribesmen or when faced by wild animals.
However there’s not much need for this now and excessive amounts of unreleased stress hormones circulating the bloodstream can lead to premature aging of the body and the skin.
Symptoms Of Stress
If you are suffering from ongoing stress you may experience some of the following common symptoms:
- High blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Skin problems – spots, eczema, psoriasis
- Loss of appetite or increased comfort eating
- Hair loss or poor condition of your hair
- Loss of libido
- Loss of sense of humor or feeling less sociable
- Confusion, forgetfulness and clouded thinking
- Low self-esteem
If you have any of the above symptoms it is important to consult your doctor to find out if you have any other underlying problem however there is much you can do yourself to cope if your symptoms are a direct result of stress.
Self-Help For Stress
There are lots of ways you can manage the stress in your life, such as talking things over with a supportive and trusted friend, family member or colleague or trying to delegate more if it is work that is the cause of your stress.
Other Stress-Busting Tips Include
Exercise – Any form of exercise will increase the production of the naturally occurring feel-good chemicals known as endorphins in your body. Swimming, running, cycling, walking in fresh air, the gym or any other sport or physical activity you can think of will help.
Massage – If you can afford it getting a massage is a wonderful way to relax and release built up tension. If you have a willing partner who will help you out by giving you a massage all the better!
Yoga – Yoga is a relaxing way to release stressful emotions and bodily tension. The exercises stretch your body and work on the internal organs promoting peace and harmony of mind, body and spirit.
Avoid Caffeinated Drinks – Caffeine is even more of a problem than usual during times of stress as it is a stimulant and can raise your heart rate and exacerbate feelings of anxiety and worry. Stick to herbal teas and other caffeine free beverages.
Eat Stress-Busting Foods – The amino acid tryptophan can be helpful in the production of serotonin a chemical produced in the brain that produces feel-good emotions.
Tryptophan is found naturally in turkey, peanuts, tofu and sesame seeds and is absorbed by the brain more efficiently when eaten with foods rich in carbohydrates.
Opt for low fat, sugar and salt free crackers, whole grain bread and rice combined with a trytophan rich food for a healthy snack. High quality peanut butter or tahini (sesames seed paste) on toast is ideal.
Stress And Your Skin
As mentioned earlier high levels of fatty acids and glucose can remain in the bloodstream because our response to stress is different to that of our ancestors – in other words we no longer need to run for or fight for our lives.
This can prematurely damage the skin via a process called protein glycation. The process of protein glycation occurs when excess glucose in the body binds to proteins causing the skin to become damaged as collagen fibers and other connective tissue is affected.
Stress And Your Face
Chronic stress can affect your skin in a number of ways and this can affect how you look. Feelings of anxiety and tension will be held in your face and the presence of stress may lead to other skin damaging problems such as insomnia.
Lack of sleep inhibits the renewal and repair of your skin cells and can give you a dull, pale complexion.
Furthermore when we are stressed we are more likely to turn to those well-known skin enemies overeating, alcohol and cigarettes as an emotional crutch.
Overeating can lead to facial weight gain and puffiness and sugary and fatty foods, which are the most comforting when we are stressed, can lead to a dull or spotty complexion.
Some people find they can’t eat when they are stressed and may be missing out on essential nutrients, this will show up on the skin. Rapid weight loss resulting in skin sagginess may also be a problem.
Facial Exercises And Stress
It is important to tackle the source of your stress in the first place and try out the recommended tips for improving the way you deal with stress.
If however your face is showing the signs of stress facial exercises can be very helpful when it comes to preventing and minimizing stress wrinkles and lines.
For Stress Wrinkles Around The Eyes
The thin delicate skin around the eyes is one of the first areas to show the signs of stress wrinkles. This exercise works on the orbicularis oculi muscle that surrounds the entire eye and can help to repair and prevent crow’s feet.
▸ Sit comfortably or lie down
▸ Place the index and middle fingers over the crow’s feet
▸ Close your eyes and at the same time very gently pull the corners of your eyes out towards your hairline
▸ Hold for a count of 5
▸ Repeat 10 times
For Stress Wrinkles On The Forehead
Stress wrinkles will also show up on your forehead particularly if you frown often. The following two exercises will help you to target the forehead and brow.
Forehead Exercise 1
This exercise uses resistance to get your forehead muscles working.
▸ Sit comfortably in a straight-backed chair and close your eyes
▸ Place one or two fingers lightly over your eyebrows
▸ Gently apply pressure with your finger
▸ With pressure still applied raise your eyebrows
▸ Hold the raise for a count of 5 then release
▸ Repeat 10 times
Forehead Exercise 2
This exercise will also help to minimize and prevent forehead wrinkles.
▸ Lie flat on your back on a bed
▸ Hang your head over the edge of the bed
▸ Open your eyes wide and raise your eyebrows as high as possible
▸ Hold for a count of 5
▸ Release and repeat 10 times
If stress is showing up on your face, facial exercises can help to improve and repair any damage. What’s more practicing facial exercises is fun and when you see the results you’ll get a boost to your self-confidence.