Anytime you’re in life-threatening danger, your body unleashes an avalanche of stress hormones. This hormonal cocktail pushes you into action, either you fight back head-on or hightail to safety. The Caveman-You might find yourself fending off a bear or running away from Ghorc, the angry caveman from next door. Here, your fight-or-flight system could make all the difference, but what about the 21st century-You?
Even though you and Ghorc no longer share similar day-to-day experiences, your fight-or-flight system doesn’t shut off. Instead, your body now sweats the small stuff - overreacting to rush hour traffic, that scary movie or an upcoming dentist appointment. If you don’t take time to unwind this stress can creep up on you, throwing you out of hormonal balance.
Always feeling stressed? Always battling with breakouts? The two are very much linked, anything you can do to lower your stress can go a long way to happier, clearer skin.
If your fight-or-flight system is an acceleration pedal, is there a way to apply the brakes?
Here are three tactics taking you from feeling frazzled and burnt-out to feeling like a monk-on-a-mountaintop:
1 - Meditate
The benefits of meditation go much deeper than being just a simple tool to unwind:
- Lower blood pressure.
- Improved blood circulation.
- Lower heart rate.
- Less anxiety.
- Less stress.
- Lower blood cortisol levels.
- Deeper sense of calmness in the body and the mind.
Putting meditation into practice can be intimidating, here are two easy methods to try out:
- Find yourself a quiet space, free from distraction.
- Get comfortable, sit or lie, it’s up to you.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on your breathing: Don’t try control your breathing, be natural.
- How does your breath feel on the way in? On the way out?
- Count each breath - one on the inhale, two on the exhale – count to ten.
- If you make it to ten, begin again. If you lose your number, don’t stress, simply start back at one.
- Begin here with the same set up as above.
- Instead of fighting your thoughts, just sit and observe anything that comes to mind.
- Don’t get involved with whatever pops up.
- Let your thoughts drift through your mind.
- It’s not as easy as it appears. You’re going to want to emotionally react, but over time you’ll develop more skill at staying calm and at peace.
Putting Meditation into Practice
- Meditation is a skill, and like any skill, you’ll get better and better with practice.
- Set a minimum time goal you can crush each day, the more ‘wins’ you can rack up the more embedded meditation will become in your routine.
- Start with just two minutes (set a timer on your phone).
- When you build consistency, up your time - thirty-second jumps work well
2 - Read
Looking for an easy, cheap and effective way to drop your stress? Look no further than reading, with many of the same benefits as meditation, plus some added extras, reading has a lot to offer:
- Lower heart rate.
- Slower breathing.
- Temporarily get out of your own head and into the authors.
- Drop muscle tension.
- Boost your creativity.
- Slow cognitive decline.
- Bump up your intelligence.
- Improve your nighttime routine, leading to better sleep.
What to read? Anything that tickles your fancy, the more you enjoy your book, the more stress-dropping benefits there are up for grabs. If you’re not a natural bookworm, getting into the swing of things can take time. Set a page goal, start with ten pages a day, when you’re consistently hitting that goal feel free to step it up.
The benefits of reading kick in from just six minutes, so don’t feel the need to slog through the entire Game of Thrones saga in one sitting!
3 – Journal
When thoughts are running rampant in your head like a sugared-up toddler, it can be impossible to put your finger on the source of your stress. Writing out your thoughts helps rein in the toddler, allowing you to pinpoint where your stress is coming from. Knowing your stressors and setting up a game-plan is a proven way to clear a cloudy mind.
- What are you feeling right now?
- What has stressed you out recently?
- What steps can you take to tackle the source?
- Is there a short-term solution you can put in to practice?
- How about a long term-solution?
Putting together a consistent run of tracking your daily thoughts can help you identify any triggers that fly by under the stress radar. Start small, consistency is the key. Set five minutes aside and answer the above questions, it may feel a clunky process at first but with persistence comes the benefits.
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