Everyone likes to joke about how something is “giving them gray hair,” but did you know that stress really does visibly age you? It doesn’t cause gray hair—that’s genetic. But stress has been linked to early wrinkles.
Stress is basically your body’s fight-or-flight response. It’s a cocktail of hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline) that floods your system when your body senses a threat. These hormones increase your alertness and cause sweating and a faster heartbeat. But cortisol also breaks down collagen, and collagen is what gives your skin structure and helps keep it moist. In other words, less collagen means more wrinkles.
Stress also causes your skin to become more reactive, which means you may see blotches, rosacea, or a more uneven skin tone. Cortisol increases oil production, which can result in acne, while adrenaline inhibits digestion, which can result in poor nutrient absorption and dull skin.
Stress also contributes to unwise lifestyle decisions that may contribute to aging, such as binging on junk food or not getting enough sleep. Stress has been directly linked to lower immune function, increased weight gain (cortisol encourages fat storage), and increased blood pressure.
One of the best and healthiest ways to combat stress is to get plenty of exercise. Baths can also be super-soothing, if you need an easy pick me up. Submerging yourself in warm water can do amazing things for your frame of mind (hey, floating therapy is a real thing for a reason!). Just be careful about getting the water too hot or taking a hot bath too often, since hot water can dry your skin—and winter is approaching, which means dry skin days! The key is to make sure you moisturize well after your bath.
Getting your beauty rest (eight hours a night) is also critical. Take a magnesium supplement before bed and avoid caffeine after lunch. If you find yourself dragging by mid-afternoon, take a 15 minute power nap rather than downing a double espresso.
Coffee tricks your body into thinking it’s been awake for less time than it has been. That may be great in the moment, but we’re only tired enough to stay asleep for eight hours when our bodies understand that we’ve been awake for about 16 hours. That means that our bodies find caffeine really confusing, and it might contribute to waking in the middle of the night or a few hours before your alarm rings.
It’s also a great idea to avoid even glancing a computer or phone screen for about an hour before bed, because that particular kind of screen-light does wacky things to our circadian rhythms.
We mention meditation often here—and we know it takes time and discipline, both issues that are in short supply if you’re stressed—but it really has been proven to reduce stress. Start small. Set your phone alarm for six minutes and meditate one a day. Once you’ve integrated that into your schedule (done it consistently for about a week), up the frequency to twice a day. You can meditate at a set time each day, or you can take a breather when you’re actually feeling overwhelmed, and meditate then.
If you’re stressed, one quick thing you can do right now to help your body deal with things is to drop by the office for a nutrient-rich IV infusion. That way, even if your digestion is screwy, you can ensure your body is getting the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. The Meyers IV has a great anti-stress mix of B & C vitamins, magnesium, and calcium. Stay well and rest well this winter season!
Posted in: Elizabeth Adams MD, Skin Health