Is stress Draining your skin radiance?
Modern life. Most find it overwhelmingly busy and stressful... wrinkles are called ‘worry lines’ for a reason! Did you know that a recent US study found that women who felt consistently threatened by the anticipation of stressful tasks looked up to 10years older at a cellular level? Our face is like a mirror image that can reveal how healthy our internal organs, blood and energy levels (Chi) are.
Have a think about where you feel your stress...
Feeling sick in the stomach about work? Butterflies in your tummy before your presentation? Knots in your tummy worrying about family stuff? It is pretty obvious that stress can very quickly disrupt healthy digestion, affecting your well being, your energy levels, your skin health and your ability to cope physically and mentally.
As soon as the brain starts feeling stress – mental, physical, emotional – it unleashes a cascade of hormones that change the way every system in our body operates. These hormones work to amplify our ‘fight or flight’ response and the way they work can vary wildly in each person! Corticotropin-releasing hormone (or CRH) works as the number one alarm bell, instigating our adrenal glands to pump out steroids and adrenaline that help give us the extra oomph we need to run away from danger. Not that many of us get to sprint away from the home or office every time we get stressed!
CRH will switch off our hunger signals and digestive processes (you’d never see a guy running from a tiger stopping for a snack or to go to the toilet!), which is why some people just can’t eat when they are stressed. In others the steroids that are released can later make them feel hungry, and because they feel depleted as the adrenaline levels drop they reach for high fat, high sugar items such as muffins, chocolate or chips. There is obviously an emotional connection to stress also, and we can get stuck repeating the same patterns over and over until we re-circuit those neural pathways.
What we do know is that our gut influences our brain, just as much as our brain influences our gut. Our brain and digestive system are in continuous communication via a highway of nerves from three different nervous systems – the parasympathetic, sympathetic & enteric nervous systems. This intricate nerve pathway is known as the brain-gut axis.
Our gut is our ‘second brain’, literally formed from the same tissue as the brain during foetal development. The enteric nervous system (or ENS), is found in tissues lining our esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines. It is a complex network of neurons, neurotransmitters and proteins able to send and receive millions of impulses, acting independently to respond to emotions, memories and other stimuli almost instantly.
Our GI tract is so finely tuned to what is going on in our brain that it makes it especially vulnerable to the presence of chronic (and even acute) stress. Our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) evolved to protect us from real physical dangers like dangerous animals or a threatening person, preparing our body for ‘flight or fight’ by shifting resources to help us survive. These days ordinary stressors such as work deadlines, family and even ringing phones – any perceived threat – can kick in the SNS response. The release of specific stress hormones halt digestion with as much as four times less than normal blood flow to your digestive system, speeds up heart and breathing rate and funnels all available energy resources to our muscles.
This SNS response was designed to be temporary, with the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) immediately prepping us for ‘rest and digest’ when the threat goes away. If it doesn’t, and our stress becomes chronic, inflammation begins and regenerative capabilities decrease throughout our gastro intestinal (GI) tract. Did you know that up to 70% of our immunity comes from our gut? Our often undervalued residential GI community of microflora (good bacteria built up over your lifetime) is vital for digestion, our health and immunity, and can be decimated as the effects of stress take hold. The exact number of bacteria hanging out in our digestive system is absolutely incredible, with the average adult having approximately 100 trillion microorganisms made up of 300 -1000 different species. Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the GI tract leads to many health issues.
Intestinal permeability increases when we are under stress, leading to more inflammation and release of inflammatory messengers that can affect all organs, particularly your skin. Gastrointestinal secretions can change drastically from normal, disrupting digestion and increasing potential for inflammation. These issues can manifest into a number of digestive disorders, and/or make any existing disorders throughout your body worse.
All these detrimental GI tract changes make it almost impossible for our bodies to metabolise hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, lipids and other important nutrients that we need not only to survive but to survive well! Chronic stress seems to play a leading role in the development of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut syndrome.... both precursors for systemic and local skin inflammation.
The vibrancy of our skin is immediately impacted. Ageing occurs faster. Dullness, dryness, sensitivity, congestion are exacerbated. Our metabolism changes, weight gains are common, we become more toxic as our ability to detoxify is stunted, our immunity drops, fatigue, illness and oftentimes depression sets in.
So what steps can you take to minimise the impact of stress? Here is some easy, practical advice for both internal and external TLC you can provide your body;
The best, and sometimes hardest, thing to learn is how to activate your ‘rest and digest’ PNS and reduce the effects of our ‘flight and fight’ SNS. We are all under some level of chronic stress these days and one of the most powerful first steps is to recognise and admit it exists – stress affects people of all ages, genders and circumstances. It is impossible to do anything about something that you do not acknowledge is present! The second is to be able to prioritise your time in such a way that you can develop and implement strategies to manage the stress that you decided to deal with.
Most stress management strategies do require a commitment of taking the time to practice them, or it’s just too easy to melt back into our bad habits. This small time commitment will help your happiness barometer stay high, as well as enabling you to avoid many of the diseases and conditions that are associated with chronic stress and associated adrenal fatigue.
Yep, that old chestnut! You’ve heard it, you know it. This is a hot topic with every health professional. Every hour of sleep before midnight equates to two after - the best quality sleep is obtained when your circadian rhythm is at its lowest point (usually between 10 pm – 5 am). Melatonin is secreted into our blood stream by the pineal gland in the brain and is known as the "hormone of darkness." No foods we eat stimulate melatonin, which has a powerful relaxation effect as well as excellent antioxidant (therefore anti-ageing) benefits in our body . Melatonin is most adversely affected by the “blue” light emitted from mobile phones, computer screens and TVs... even a quick read of a ‘real’ book before bed will work wonders! Switch off earlier and rest better.
I believe learning to be grateful is one of the best, and most joyfully selfish things you can do! Focusing on your personal reasons for gratitude means focusing on the things that make you happy in every day life. It gives you perspective – when you are feeling overwhelmed think of 3 things that you are grateful for at that moment. It could be your health, or the shoes you are wearing, or the smile you just received from the stranger at the coffee shop. It’s a great routine to begin and end each day in bed - think of 3 things in your life or day that you feel grateful for. By realising what we have it can lessen our need for wanting more all the time, or continually searching elsewhere for our happiness. We already carry it with us!
Being aware of the moment you are in. Woah it can be hard! We spend a lot of time either projecting into the future worrying about what could possibly happen next (and boy there are a lot of possibilities that may never, ever eventuate!) or dwelling on events in our past, whether it be 5minutes or 5 years ago. The point is – the past has happened, the future is ahead... where you are is now. And unless your life is in immediate danger the only stresses you have are literally self-created, self-managed, imagined and expanded.
Some people may scoff at this but science is proving the multitude of benefits meditation offers more and more and more (let alone thousands of years of natural medicine!). There are many, many types of meditation plus other relaxation techniques such as Yoga and Tai Chi that have meditation components. Don't let the thought of meditating the "right" way add to your stress – there are many classes available in studios and even online to help you find what works best. I’ve searched YouTube for guided meditations many times at night, disliked some and loved many! Part of meditation is learning deeper breathing techniques, which is something you can take with you everywhere and use anytime. Breathing is one of the most powerful de-stressing techniques and one you have the most control over immediately!
PRE & PROBIOTIC FOODS
These need to hit your GI tract daily! They have been shown to positively and strongly influence mood, immunity, skin health, inflammation, depression and hormone production. Whilst probiotics are a live microbial food designed to introduce good bacteria into the gut, prebiotics are a non-living, non-digestible carb fertiliser for the good bacteria that’s already established there, with both improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio. Probiotics can be found in non-pasteurised yoghurt (heat kills bacteria!), sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and supplements. Bacteria in our gut, including the probiotics, digest the fibre found in pre-biotics such as fruits, veggies, legumes.
So what can we do topically to ensure healthy, glowing skin?
Zinc, Omegas, Vitamins A, B, and C in a stable, encapsulated, superior serum delivery form are especially helpful, all working on reducing stress and inflammation in the skin. It is ideal to be working with a skin care therapist that has the ability to customise a serum depending on your specific skin signs. Phosphatidylcholine (PC) in your skin care is another winner as it supports barrier function and cell membranes, reducing oxidative stress loads significantly. All of these can be found within the Dermaviduals skincare range, used exclusively with us here at Verve.
Omnilux LED Light Therapy will ease inflamed, stressed, breakout &/or reactive skin. LED gently enhances natural cellular recovery by increasing blood and lymph circulation, improving detoxification and cell communication, as well as contributing to a deep state of relaxation both during and after your treatment.
There are so many issue that can occur when stress has taken over your body and skin. Work with your Verve expert skin therapist to discover your perfect skin de-stress personalised skin prescription of treatments to reinvigorate dull, lifeless and stressed skin.
And last of all I give you a strategy that doesn't require any additional time in your day, and no practice.
Smiling! And laughing!
Relieving tension and improving the mood of most situations, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward reducing stress signals, as well as the feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin.
Smiling is an inexpensive way to improve the way you look! Studies show that when you smile people treat you differently. You’re viewed as attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere, and the person viewing your smile actually feels rewarded.
The best thing about smiles, though, is that they are contagious – and you can pass this free gift onto every single stressed (or not!) person that you encounter!
"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." ~Thich Nhat Hanh