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Posted by Cedars Dermatology, 19th April 2018
Feeling frazzled is never fun – but if you’re living with a chronic skin condition, stress can be even more troublesome.
This is because stress isn’t just a state of mind. When we’re under stress, particularly over a long period of time, there’s a lot going on physiologically too. Research has found that stress hormones like cortisol can cause an increase in inflammation within the body and impact on immune function – two things that play a big role in many skin conditions.
So while stress is not the root cause of your symptoms, it might sometimes make them seem worse. This means managing stress can play an important role in managing your skin condition, alongside the rest of your skincare toolkit and treatments. And remember, if you’re struggling with flare-ups and want further guidance on managing your skin condition, our experts are here to help.
With this in mind, here are five simple steps to help manage stress:
Being physically active can work magic inside and out, helping you feel more energised, upbeat and confident and flooding your body with oxygen and endorphins – aka feel-good hormones – to help counterbalance stress. So make time to do something active every day, even if it’s just a short walk when you’re too busy for anything else. Find things you love doing, whether that’s dancing, a spin class or a HIIT workout at home, so exercise feels like a fun reward rather than a chore.
Too much stress can make it harder to get a good nights’ sleep. At the same time, not getting enough quality sleep can mean we’re less equipped to handle the effects of stress. Experts recommend trying to stick to a routine with good ‘sleep hygiene’ – things like having a regular bedtime, and making sure your bedroom environment is comfortable, dark and peaceful and the right temperature. Adopting a ‘wind down’ routine to prepare for sleep-mode – so putting down your phone and doing something relaxing like reading a book, for example – can also help.
Rely on to-do lists to keep on top of things at work? They might be useful for helping manage stress outside of work too, particularly if you’re struggling to sleep and relax because your mind’s constantly whirring with a million distracting thoughts. Spending a few minutes each night writing a list of all the things on your mind, or tasks you need to complete, can really help you feel calm and in control. But it only works if you actually sit down with a pen and paper to do it – just thinking about it, or doing it on your phone, won’t have the same effects! There’s something about the deliberate physical process that works wonders.
It’s often said that ‘laughter is the best medicine’. No, it won’t cure diseases, but a good hearty laugh increases your oxygen intake, stimulates and relieves your body’s stress responses, and eases muscle tension – so laughing really can leave you feeling more relaxed both mentally and physically. What better excuse for a catch-up with a friend you always end up giggling with, or a day out doing something fun? Or just snuggle up on the sofa with your favourite comedy.
Meditation has been found to have instant benefits when it comes to reducing the effects of stress. If formal meditation isn’t your cup of tea, try practicing some simple deep-breathing exercises during the day when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and set aside time to really ‘switch off’ from life’s strains and distractions. Lose yourself in a craft project, podcast or good book!