Stress and Skin Inflammation: The Mind-Skin Connection
The buzzword of the moment is inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s reaction to a perceived threat to your health. It may or may not be harmful. Keeping your body healthy requires inflammation since it helps protect you from true dangers like flu viruses. There are times, however, when your body overreacts to substances that are harmless infections, allergies-or to something that doesn’t warrant such a disproportionate reaction. That is sometimes stressful.
Learn more about Inflammation through our article: The beginner’s guide to inflammation
Let’s further understand how stress affects your skin health:
The Mind-Skin Connection
In our day-to-day lives, we interact with many stressful situations, which can negatively impact our health. However, how exactly does stress, which we tend to describe as more of a mental game, affect the health of our skin? Individuals experience this type of stress when they cannot handle the pressure anymore. According to research, work pressure is the main cause of stress.
An important physical link exists between the brain and the skin. Essentially, the skin and the brain share a group of cells called the ectoderm layer-thereby establishing a foundational physiological relationship between them.
Skin issues can develop or flare up when you also have psychological conditions like stress, depression, or anxiety. As a result of being stressed, your sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones into your body, including cortisol and adrenaline. In addition to clogging pores and causing acne breakouts, cortisol increases oil production in your skin glands. The constant increase in these hormone levels caused by chronic stress can negatively affect your skin.
The skin is not only a key target for psychological stress signals, but it also contributes to the stress response in various ways – such as by signalling mast cells, keratinocytes, and immune cells.
Chronic stress can affect the immune system by increasing inflammation, which, in turn, affects the recovery of the skin.
This is not all.
Stress-induced overeating can also have an adverse effect on your skin, by causing an increase in production of skin oil, which can result in clogged pores and acne breakouts.
Increased stress levels can cause leaky gut and brain-gut connections, resulting in food particles getting into the bloodstream, triggering immunity. If protein particles (via food) in your bloodstream mimic skin cells, your immune system may become overly sensitive to allergens. Skin diseases, such as eczema, can be triggered when the irritation and inflammation resulting from leaky gut syndrome go beyond the gastrointestinal tract.
Which Skin Issues Are Linked To Stress?
Psoriasis is a common disease that I come across with my clients these days. Stress has a lot to do with it! A very common stressor among women who are constantly under pressure to handle work and home and not to forget their children too. Indeed, psoriasis is an inflammatory autoimmune skin condition, and stress plays an important role in aggravating it. Chronic stress increases the cortisol levels, which are responsible for flare-ups.
Acne has always been considered a stress-related problem regardless of age or gender. This is confirmed by one study that showed a significant correlation between stress and acne breakout among students before exams. You release cortisol more when you are stressed. It makes the gland under your skin produce oil, which makes your acne worse.
A chronic condition like this can be genetic and run in families as well. It’s characterized by dry, cracked skin, redness, and itching. One recent study showed that seborrheic dermatitis is often preceded by a stressful event and that stress predicts a poor prognosis. The first study of its kind to indicate a possible link between stressful life events and occurrences of seborrheic dermatitis.
“Several days ago, under my hoodie, I noticed myself scratching more than usual. I noticed patches of red along my neck and around my stomach when I looked down” A very common problem faced by many. Those suffering from hives, also referred to as urticaria, suffer from a variety of itchy welts that can appear anywhere on the body, can vary in size and can cause itchiness.
Usually, eczema flare-ups are caused by several triggers which are commonly associated with anxiety and stress. The increased anxiety and stress caused by that creates more eczema flare-ups, leading to more flare-ups of the disease. It’s a vicious cycle.
There are patches of white skin that appear on different parts of the body due to this condition, which is caused because the cells responsible for making the pigment are destroyed. One of the main triggers for the growth or spread of the disorder has been thought to be emotional stress.
Take the Lifestyle Route to Manage Daily Stress
Managing stress is challenging, and different people experience it differently. But, it is not impossible. Stress can affect all the organs, but it can often have particularly significant effects on the skin, as it can influence keratinisation, inflammation, and skin immunity. Stress management could help you improve the appearance of your lesions, but it isn’t easy!
Follow these simple steps to help your skin breathe freely:
- Meditate daily for 10 – 20 minutes. Research has shown that meditation helps patients with psoriasis.
- Include colourful fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.
- Focus on having a healthy and balanced meal every day with good quality protein, complex carbohydrates, quality fats and ample amounts of vitamins and minerals.
- Do not skip your daily exercise to meet your work deadlines.
- Try writing down your daily task in a diary. This will help to keep a track of the activities you need to perform.
- Spend the evening strolling along your garden or beach with family and friends.
- Take it easy, every day should not be a struggle for you but a learning phase.
- Learn to say no, if you are already loaded with work and projects. Set healthy boundaries at work place. Organize your to-do list by importance with A, B, and C labels. Cross out the Cs on busy days.
- practice positive self-talk.
- Take note of your mistakes and learn from them, rather than sitting and stressing about them. We are humans, made to make mistakes.
- Avoid drinking and smoking as that can worsen the skin conditions.
- The circadian rhythm of living can improve your wellbeing and overall health.
- Practice acceptance and letting go
- Learn to forgive instead of holding on to grudges
- Include breathing exercises in your morning ritual.
Finally, work is never-ending and stress at work never goes away. We can either sit and blame, whine and be victims to it. Or, take charge, accept and move to action. Avoid allowing stress to negatively affect your mood, your mental well-being, and last but not least, your skin.
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