Your body is amazing— anything you do to challenge your body will usually make it stronger. Learning a new skill or even driving a different route home will result in a stronger brain; pounding the pavement, performing some HIIT or lifting weights will result in stronger muscles, bones and heart. Fortunately and unfortunately, in today’s society, things have become automated physically, yet our brains and stress levels are through the roof.
So, while our body is built to exercise, it is not meant to handle the extreme amounts of stress that we mentally place upon ourselves. Relentless demands and mental exhaustion takes a toll on your body and shows on your complexion. When you are in a stressful situation— either physical or mental— your body produces cortisol and adrenaline to give you the heart-pumping ability to fight or run away from a predator. This frequent activation of your body’s stress response leads to these hormones accumulating, which causes inflammation. Inflammation has many effects on the body, from making you feel crummy to breaking down collagen (causing wrinkles) to causing breakouts (usually deep, tender pimples on the chin or jaw). No one wants this.
Stress also has a negative effect on how oxygen is used in the body. While oxygen is essential for life, it is very reactive and can form unstable free radicals that cause a lot of cellular damage. Antioxidants help neutralize these free radicals that are created. Even though our bodies have a self-made antioxidant system that controls this oxidative stress, it is unable to keep up with the free radicals when your body is exposed to significant physical or emotional stress, ultraviolet radiation, smoking, pollution, infection and a high sugar concentration in the blood. This leads to severe inflammation, which contributes to aging and unwanted blemishes.
During this holiday season when you are over scheduled and overwhelmed, take 10 minutes a day for some meditation. It will do wonders for yourself and your interactions with the people in your life. I personally enjoy the app Head space as I can download it on my phone, put in some headphones, and do it anywhere at any time. Meet friends for yoga. Enjoy deep, really deep breathing. The label on my tea this morning said: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything gets accomplished.” Wow. Don’t we all need a reminder like that, every so often?
When you’re stressed, it is so easy to overeat, especially unhealthy, processed carbohydrate-rich foods. Although eating junk food may temporarily feel good, it always makes you feel and look bad afterward— dull complexion, puffy eyes, breakouts and blemishes. Instead, reach for these stress-busting foods:
Wild Alaskan Salmon and Sardines – foods high in omega-3 fatty acids balance moisture in the skin and reduce inflammation, leading to a clear and hydrated complexion. Astaxanthin, that gives wild salmon that beautiful pink color, has anti-aging effects on the skin and translates to a beautiful glow in those who eat it. Avoid farm-raised salmon as this is loaded with chemicals and heavy metals.
Organic Turkey Breast – the amino acid tryptophan, found in turkey, converts into calming serotonin. Pumpkin seeds (not pie!), nuts and eggs are also great sources of tryptophan. It is important to choose organic foods and avoid the chemicals and hormones in our traditional food supply. Hormones cause acne and obesity. Added chemicals wear the organs down by utilizing all their resources trying to excrete them from the body, which leads to inflammation and unwanted weight gain.
Blueberries – colorful fruits, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, and pomegranates, are a rich source of anthocyanins. They are powerful antioxidants that protect your skin and body from environmental toxins, and assist in the production of mood-boosting dopamine in your brain.
Leafy Green Vegetables – rich in magnesium and folate, which enhance well-being and relaxation. Avocados and some seeds are also great sources of magnesium.
Dark Chocolate – yes, enjoy 80 percent or higher dark chocolate for a mood boost, thanks to a substance called anandamide. Dark chocolate produces this mood boosting “bliss compound,” which also helps you feel calmer.
So, instead of reaching for alcohol, sugary processed foods that will wreak havoc on your mood and your complexion, take a few slow, deep breaths, go for a walk with a friend, laugh more, feel gratitude and fill your plate with the colors of nature.
Dr. Haley loves answering questions from readers. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org