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stressed skin

Stress and our skin, ft AVEENO skincare

Do we overlook the emotional impact skin conditions have on us, and does the way we think play a part in it?

It’s an interesting one,

I recently spoke to Psychologist Emma Kenny about the effect our thinking has on our skin and in turn, how these skin conditions can effect our psyche.

It’s no secret that when we’re under huge amounts of stress we often see the result through our skin. I personally get breakouts if I’ve spent too much energy worrying about something, like a big event for example. Others can see the effects in the form of flare-ups, be it eczema or rashes.

It’s all common but it’s also something we can reduce with a change in our thinking process.

We live in a fast-paced life with constant distractions and increasingly demanding jobs. Having a family in this modern World is the equivalent of juggling eggs. You’re constantly moving from one thing to another with the fear that stopping will mean something will break.

It’s not an ideal way to live and it’s something I’m personally working on to achieve a better work / life balance.

There’s an overwhelming amount of pressure to achieve highly, resulting in us putting everything into the areas of our lives that require service to others, neglecting ourselves. To see an improvement in our own skin – inside and out, we must begin with self-care. It’s self-indulgent yes, but absolutely necessary to function in a happy, healthy way. Self-care is taking time to look after yourself before you can take care of others. It’s about mindful practice, using the correct products and eating the best food that’s beneficial to your body.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I received was, “emotions are not good or bad, they’re just emotions”.

How you feel, is how you feel, you can’t change that. However, what you can do is change how you respond to these feelings. Don’t react on impulse as that’s usually driven by an erratic sense of direction. Remain mindful and don’t panic, understand that an emotion is a prompt. If you wake feeling anxious it’s an alert to tell you to understand the feeling and process it, by consciously doing the things that help you remain calm and balanced.

I often have anxiety and panic attacks, some are a result of pressure, some are sporadic and unprovoked. I know the feeling of them and have realised for me personally, the only thing that helps is the gym. No amount of shopping, eating, or relaxing helps. Those activities actually heighten it enormously. That’s what processing it is, accept the feeling and do what’s necessary to ease the symptoms. Maybe you’re at work and one happens, you may need to speak to management to take some time out for air, avoid caffeine the rest of the day and take a walk at lunch. Tweak your day to suit your internal signals.

The last year or two I’ve noticed a change in my own skin during periods of stress. It started as one red lump on my hand that would get incredibly itchy and increasingly swollen the more I scratched. Initially I thought it was an insect sting until I realised it would fade and return in the same place. Then it became two areas of my hands. 

I have always suffered dry skin on my legs and both my children suffered eczema as babies, so I know the stresses of also looking after other people’s skin as well as my own. The AVEENO Dermexa range is suitable for the whole family, which takes some of the worry out of my own life as we use these products religiously and have used the Aveeno brand for years now. 

I tried lots of creams but found some were either too watery and not moisturising enough or that some were rich but didn’t last long. I then tried the AVEENO Dermexa fast & long-lasting balm created for very dry skin, and found it did two things: intensely moisturised and calmed the itchy sensation.

See the before and after below

So paying attention to our mental state and using the correct products to both moisturise and soothe can really aid in reducing these skin issues going forward.

Take a look at the Q&A with psychologist Emma Kenny below, it’s incredibly insightful and provides some tips for those who suffer with stress / anxiety and skin disorders.

How does stress impact your skin?

E.K – “I prefer to think of the mind and body as one unit. Ultimately, your brain is an organ of your body and so of course, it’s inevitable that how we feel or think will impact how our body feels or looks.

When we experience a stressful situation, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode and responds by increasing production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. But when the body produces too much cortisol, it can suppress the immune system and cause an inflammatory response in the skin. People living with skin diseases like eczema are particularly susceptible to this inflammatory response.”

Can you tell us a bit more about the ‘vicious cycle’ of stress and skin problems?

E.K -“As mentioned, stress can certainly impact whether you experience a dry skin or eczema flare up, but also, having a flare up can of course cause stress – so it is a vicious cycle. The most common concern around skin issues is the lack of control people tend to feel.

You can feel like you’re on top of 99% of things, but when your skin is acting up it can bring everything else crashing down and it’s quite hard to get back on top of things. Fear not as there are some tips and tricks to help you be more mindful of how your mood is impacting your skin’s reaction.”

What do eczema or visibly dry skin sufferers commonly struggle with mentally, rather than physically? 

E.K -“Anyone that has a skin problem that is visible is likely to feel self-conscious or anxious. Particularly if you feel your dry skin is visible in any way, you may have a concern that others are aware or conscious of it, even though it’s unlikely that they are.

In parents, they may feel concerned about their children inheriting their issues, or if they already have children with dry or eczema prone skin, they could experience guilt. These are all normal emotions so don’t get concerned if these resonate with you, just employ some ways to deal with them.”

Are there any practices you recommend that help alleviate stress or anxiety?

E.K -“Yes, absolutely. Mindfulness is a practice I promote to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Just taking yourself back to the moment can offer you real perspective and clarity that in turn helps you to focus on the things that are enjoyable and fill you with happiness and satisfaction, rather than those that are causing you stress.

Restore some balance to your life and in turn to your skin with these tips:

Anchoring 

This is a technique I use to take me somewhere that gives me a sense of relaxation or relief. For me it’s the moment they handed me my son, as this was the happiest time in my life.

Close your eyes, take yourself there, and as you do hold your middle finger and thumb together. Do this a few times and the association of the thought and the action mean that when you need it, you can transport yourself to that emotion by competing that movement

Breathing 

Breathe in for 4, hold for 6 and exhale for 7. When you do this you won’t hyperventilate and it will calm your mind

Mindful practice 

Anything that brings you back to the here and now. We have a tendency to let our minds go into overdrive when we lead busy lifestyles. When you can, just take a moment to close your eyes, touch on thoughts, and then let them go. It’s not about trying to clear your mind, it’s about living in the moment and returning to the present rather than worrying about the past or future

Mindful activities 

You can practice mindfulness whilst doing an activity. Gardening for example is a form of mindfulness. You set your mind to something and focus on that for a period of time and with that action to bring yourself back to the here and now.

For example, try colouring, anyone can do it and you can even do it with the kids if you’re a busy mum. Just make sure you do something that you genuinely get satisfaction from, too

Routine 

It’s so important when you lead a busy lifestyle to make it easier for yourself. Find things that fit into your routine rather than trying to change too much.

Perhaps it’s a product that you can use on the whole family for ease, or it could be prepping breakfast for the next morning. There are a few things you can do to reduce your rushing around and restore some balance to your life

Sleep

Easier said than done when your brain is in overdrive, but seriously, try and get enough sleep. Cut down on screen time in bed so you allow your mind to calm, and ensure you get at least 6 – 7 hours’ sleep for a more productive day”

I hope you found this useful and find some good nuggets of information to take away and help balance your own lives. Remember! Don’t be afraid to be a little selfish by taking time for yourself, mind, body and soul

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Disclaimer – This is a sponsored post in partnership with The AVEENO team for the new Dermexa range. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Get involved over on instagram @AVEENOUK #SKINSTORIES #BALANCEOFOATS #AD