Hey Cortisol, Take a chill pill
How to reduce stress and save your skin while you’re at it.
Back before we were tucked away in our homes facing a global pandemic, stress and anxiety seemed to feel manageable – in comparison at least. Now, with the heightened uncertainty, stress and anxiety seem to follow us around like lost puppies. They are there when we wake up, and linger until we’re sound asleep – if they choose to let us sleep.
Between the stress of the ‘hows’ – how am I going to pay my mortgage? How am I going to retire after all this? How am I going to be able to graduate? And, the anxiety of the ‘what ifs’ – what if this gets worse? What if someone I love gets sick? What if I never recover from this? It seems someone put our worries on repeat and cranked the volume, leaving us feeling worn out, run down, and depressed.
Some stress is natural, and our bodies have become very good at managing it in small doses. When we are stressed, our brains send a signal to our adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is best known as the stress hormone, and controls our mood, motivation, and fear. It also plays an important role in managing inflammation, processing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, regulating our sleep-wake cycles, and boosting energy. Cortisol is meant to spike momentarily to get us through the burst of added stress, then go back to normal levels after the stress is gone.
Long periods of stress and cortisol spikes can lead to some pretty serious problems, including taking a massive toll on our skin. New York City board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Amy Wechsler, explained how cortisol affects our skin for Oprah magazine:
“Excess cortisol breaks down collagen, increases moisture loss, triggers inflammation, dilates blood vessels, slows cell turnover, and increases sebum production.”
As if stress and anxiety haven’t done enough damage to our wellbeing and quality of life, now we have to contend with dehydrated skin, collagen loss, and breakouts – great. Before we throw in the towel and give up entirely, let’s take a look at three things you can do now to reduce that long term stress (and subsequent cortisol spikes), thereby managing anxiety and saving your skin while you’re at it.
1. Get your Endorphins Pumping
It may seem counterintuitive, but exercise such as running, swimming, dancing, or playing tennis are some of the best ways to reduce stress in the moment. Exercise has been shown to do two amazing things; the first is it reduces your cortisol levels (managing those long term spikes), and second, it tells your brain to release endorphins. Endorphins act as the body’s natural mood elevator, effectively relieving stress. The best part is you don’t have to push yourself out of our comfort zone to reap the benefits – just pick your favorite exercise and get moving.
2. Swap up the dialogue
When you’re caught in the vicious cycle of fear and uncertainty, the words swirling around in your head tend to be pretty scary and cruel. Sticks and stones may very well break your bones, but words have the power to either cripple you or lift you up. Choose a few words that seem to pop up a lot, such as ‘scared’ or ‘depressed’ or ‘at my wits end’, and consciously practice replacing those words with empowering ones such as ‘curious’ or ‘moving through something’ or ‘challenged’. By simply changing your self-talk, you have the power to radically change your mood for the better.
3. Curate a daily routine
Finding normalcy in times of heightened anxiety is one of the most effective ways to manage your stress. When you’re feeling down, you lose motivation, which in extreme cases can lead to losing your sense of purpose. When you empower yourself by committing to two or more activities every morning and every evening, you’re not only able to accomplish whatever personal growth goals you’ve set for yourself, but you are providing yourself with a sense of control and stability that can lessen the grip of uncertainty.
Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool, and when wielded positively the sky’s the limit. Remember, self-care is more than just face masks and bubble baths – those are just one part of the whole picture. True self-care starts with treating your whole self by nourishing your mind, body, and skin. And, if you need a bit of internal support, we’ve got your back. The AM+PM Beauty Set were developed to deliver all of the goods for your skin, mind, and overall lifestyle.
Times are a bit tricky at the moment, but as with everything, this too shall pass. This is your opportunity to grow, learn, and evolve. You’ve got this!