Can your skin be stressed?
Yes! It’s not all in your head: Anxiety can show up on your face. “When you’re stressed, your levels of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline skyrocket, creating an inflammatory cascade in your body that can have a slew of side effects, including aggravating skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema,” says Amy Wechsler, M.D., dermatologist, psychiatrist, and adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. “The redness from those is bad enough, but it turns out that chronic stress— consistently heightened levels for a few weeks or months— can cause an increase in lines as well as decreased skin elasticity (which can prompt sagging). But not to worry: There are easy solutions for both inside and out.
FIND MORE CALM IN YOUR DAY
“Getting seven and a half to eight hours of sleep each night is crucial for skin and well-being,” explains Evan Rieder, M.D., psychiatrist, dermatologist, and assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Health. “It resets stress hormones like cortisol and repairs your complexion.”
RELAX YOUR MUSCLES
Any time you’re tense, try a technique called progressive muscle relaxation, which involves clenching and relaxing muscle groups one at a time for four to 10 seconds each. Start with your feet, then work up to your calves,
thighs, butt, core, chest, arms, mouth, even the muscles around your eyes, breathing slowly and deeply as you go. “It shifts the focus away from what’s stressing you out,” Dr. Rieder says. (The method is especially effective in helping settle your body and mind before bed.)
SWEAT IT OUT
Any type of exercise can melt stress by producing endorphins in your body, which triggers an instant surge of well-being. Aim to engage in 30 minutes of cardiovascular fitness, Pilates, or yoga each day.
HAVE A GOOD LAUGH
Never underestimate the power of quality time with your loved ones, Dr. Wechsler says (texting, calling, and FaceTiming don’t really count). It’ll lift your spirits, make you chuckle— which is shown to release feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and endorphins—and help you decompress.
Spending time in nature, ideally in a park or wooded area near a body of water, has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
When we’re anxious, we tend to take shallow breaths from our chests, which can make us light-headed.
“But inhaling deeply from your diaphragm, allowing your stomach to puff outward as you slowly exhale, will help alleviate tension, calm you down, and clear your mind,” Dr. Rieder says.