This is Part 1 from How I Keep My Skin Clear. If you haven’t seen the overview, check it out here. It will give you a taste of what’s to come.
I Keep My Stress Low
This. Is. Key.
It cannot be emphasized enough. I used to think diet was #1, but you know what? You could have your diet totally nailed, but if you are constantly subjecting your body to stress (i.e. always running late, to do list piling up, too much exercise, too little sleep, problematic environment, etc.) then you will not reap the benefits of that good diet and you will be in a self-perpetuating bad skin cycle. Thus, keeping stress low is #1.
I am not going to go into the mechanisms by which stress completely screws up your body because the goal of this post is not to stress you out. If you’re anything like me, thinking about the consequences of stress can add to stress, which certainly does not help in the slightest.
Here are a few ways I take care of stress so that I can enjoy clear skin. (There are more stress solutions in “The Book”…and here, my friends, is where I walk the line of dumping all sorts of information on you for free, while also preventing everyone who bought the book from feeling fleeced). Read on!
Quick Note: these tips will be especially useful if you are prone to hormonal acne (the blemishes and cysts that tend to pop up on the jawline and chin).
1. I trivialize. I have heard some people give stress a nickname: “monkey mind.” That sounds playful and treatable. So that’s what I call it. It does not sound so destructive when you call it out for what it is – too much mind yammering.
2. I step out into nature, and when I cannot do that, I look at beautiful and awe-inspiring nature photographs. Studies have shown marked decrease in blood pressure and stress markers when people take short walks in nature or simply sit in a natural setting, or even look at pictures of natural wonders. At the risk of sounding like a total hippy, it helps to take a moment to really connect with our planet. There is some deep seated need for it in every human being.
3. I take deep breaths. First, we often forget to breathe properly, as stress forces us to take short, shallow, silly little breaths. Stop and BREATHE. Like really grab all the air and pull it into your belly. There’s a big difference between that breathing and our stressy breathing, and it brings more oxygen to our brain and calms us down.
4. I practice yoga almost daily. Whether it’s a DVD (this one and any of these Ashtanga options are my favorites), a class with my instructor, or a self-guided “make-it-up-as-I-go” practice, I just enjoy doing yoga. Yoga serves as a long-term solution, helping to “rewire” the brain to a calmer baseline (the more scientific term is neuroplasticity). The brain is extremely flexible and adaptable, not a static organ like once thought, and will build different neural pathways based on what you keep teaching it. This is a deep and fascinating subject, but it goes beyond the scope of this article, so if you are interested to know the technicalities, check out one of these books: Rewire Your Brain and/or The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.
5. I take magnesium. In addition to eating (or drinking) lots of greens, which have lots of magnesium, I also take Natural Calm magnesium powder (Lemon and Raspberry-Lemon are my favorites) at night. This is something I have been doing off-and-on for about 5 years now. While I had to get used to the semi-sour taste, it is a wonderful supplement and a natural, non-addictive way to help you calm down and get restful sleep. I mix 1 or 2 tsp. in 8+ oz. warm filtered water and drink it all down about an hour before bed. If you have never taken magnesium and want to try it out, start with 1/2 tsp. in 8 oz. of warm filtered water. Too much magnesium for the unacquainted can result in frequent trips to the toilet.
6. Stress is always self-induced. That is both a scary and empowering concept. We all have full control over the stress we feel. Four people experiencing a single identical situation will have four distinct reactions. It’s all in how you want to react and behave. For instance, if someone behaves rudely toward me, instead of bemoaning a perceived mistreatment or holding a grudge, I’ll bring it up to that person right then and there. Airing things out in the open straight off the bat often has excellent results. Often it’s just that person having a bad day, and has nothing to do with who they are taking it out on.
Those are just examples of ways I have cut my stress way down.
To conclude, I wanted to share this funny (but accurate) portrayal of how a lot of people tend to think. If you are thinking like this woman, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Worrying too much about other people’s actions and thoughts is a big stress trigger, and it’s not even real – it’s all in your head. Life is for enjoying, not wasting our time on imagining the inner workings of others’ brains.
In what ways do you take care of your stress or knee-jerk reactions?
P.S. That awesome “Keep Calm” poster is by Schuhle Lewis.