Your Skin & Stress
Stress comes in different guises and what is stressful to you will not necessarily bother someone else. However, our bodies respond to stress in the same way. Adrenaline is the number one stress hormone; it speeds up the heart beat, breathing and metabolic rate to give us a necessary rush of extra energy. Adrenaline is produced and stored in our two adrenal glands that are situated on top of the kidneys and with long-term stress these glands will deplete. Stress is often seen as negative but if stress is balanced with relaxation then its negative effects may be diminished and a balance can be achieved. Stress may also play a positive role as it strengthens our capacity to cope so that we are better prepared to deal with crisis. Adrenaline moves, motivates and energises.
Unfortunately modern stress is relentless and experienced day after day never giving us time to relax and balance ourselves. Stress caused by losing our job, failing exams, being late and stuck in traffic all gets bottled up and leads to anger, frustration and irritability. Over stressing our system releases excess stress related hormones, enzymes and other chemicals that result in leaving our bodies anxious, our muscles tense and feeling exhausted, eventually we burn out.
Stressing the Skin
Stress effects our skin in a variety of ways.
- Adrenaline redirects blood away from the skin and sends it to the muscles instead. This is why in times of relentless stress the skin becomes pale and "washed out".
- Anger, irritability, excitement and frustration unleash chemicals, which stimulate the sebaceous glands into pouring out more oil. The excess sebum can block the pores and encourage the pimples to form. This is why we tend to break out in spots on the eve of an important occasion.
- Chronic stress makes muscles tense up and become stiff. This prevents the flow of blood bringing enough oxygen and vital nutrients to the skin. Tension also is responsible for slowing the swift removal of wastes from the underlying tissue. Stressed skin lacks vitality and looks congested.
- Strain slows down the rate of cell turnover so the fresh epidermal cells take longer to reach the skin surface and much of their moisture has disappeared. Under constant pressure the skin looks dull and sallow.
- Continuous stress increases cortisone secretion, which suppresses the body's natural immunity. The skin's defence breaks down and allows the skin to be irritated by outside chemicals and pollutants.
- Stress shatters serenity and fuels self-doubt. It is important to balance, regulate and compose your inner body environment and that will then express itself on the surface of the skin.
In order to help support and relieve anxiety and stress there are many available plant relaxants. These herbs can be taken as tinctures, pills, infusions and decoctions. When taken regularly they can help to calm and help deal with a stressful lifestyle and support the nervous system. The following herbs are used for stress, camomile, skullcap, vervain, wild oats, St John's Wort, limeflowers and lavender.
Infusion for Stress
- 10g dried lime flowers
- 10g dried camomile
- 10g dried vervain
Add the dried herbs to 1 pint (600ml) of boiling water in a warmed pot with a lid. Leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes and then strain. Drink warm throughout the day.
Relaxing Herbal Bath
An excellent way to take herbal medicines is in a fragrant hot bath. There are several ways to make a relaxing bath. Add a couple of drops of essential oil to the water, or hang a muslin bag with fresh or dried aromatic herbs under the hot tap, or add a pint of strong infusion to the water and then soak in the bath for 10-30 minutes. Using herbs like this in an herbal bath allows the essential oils from the plants to be taken in through the pores of the skin, which are opened up by the warmth of the water. Also the oils are inhaled into the lungs and then to the bloodstream avoiding the lengthy process of digestion. Herbal baths are especially useful for relaxing and soothing the nervous system and easing mental and emotional strain. In addition- warm moisture cleans the pores and moisturizes the skin. Herbs particularly suited to using in baths are lavender, camomile and limeflowers.