Sunday, 12 October 2014

How Stress Affects Our Bodies & What We Can Do About It (editorial)

Hello! I wanted to write this little update for our readers who have continued to view our little beauty blog despite it being dormant for the last three and a bit weeks. I've just taken over a business which has, as you might expect, taken its toll on my time and my well-being! Fellow blogger Richard, on the other hand, is working non-stop during the week and has a relationship he focuses on at the weekend.

So not only is this post a kind of explanation for our quietness but it also gave me an idea for an article dealing with the effects of stress and neglect on our bodies. I'll openly admit to having been somewhat slack when it comes to maintaining my health and beauty regimes recently! But starting now I hope to address these issues – starting with identifying what's wrong.

Lacklustre Hair
Young Girl Fixing Her Hair by Sophie Anderson © Magnus Manske
A bad hair day can negatively affect your confidence which has knock-on effects both at work and at home. When we're not feeling good about the way we look we might be snappy with our loved ones, feel and look insecure, hide at the office or turn-down social invitations.

When you're very stressed not only are you less likely to eat the right foods to maintain good hair health but you might lack the drive to care for your hair properly, leaving it greasy when you have deadlines to meet or going to bed with wet hair and waking up with flat locks.

While it seems to be a myth that stress turns hair grey, you might find – as I have – that there's a definite link between high stress and hair thinning. I've noticed that my hair feels thinner – I'm not losing clumps of hair or anything like that, but the actual hair fibres seem to have lost volume and texture.

Short-term everyday stress can't have this effect, but long-term stresses which affect your sleeping pattern, immune system and diet can. Unfortunately I've been suffering from all three! If you're losing your hair or have noticeable thinness you need to look back over the last three months of your life to pinpoint what the cause might be.

Once you've done that you can tackle it. Here are some suggestions on what you might like to do.

  1. Reduce your workload. Can you offload some of your troubles or tasks that are causing you so much stress onto other people? Don't be afraid to ask for help; doing so is not a sign of weakness.
  2. As the saying goes: “a problem shared is a problem halved” so talk to someone: a friend, relative or counsellor. You'll likely feel better afterwards. I find someone impartial is best.
  3. Once you've reduced your load acknowledge that the worst of it is over; you've got calmer times ahead of you. Don't just plough on regardless, take stock of your actions.
  1. Watch your diet! I don't mean focusing on losing weight, instead just eat more fruits and vegetables which will give you vitamins and minerals needed when you're stressed. Make sure you get enough protein, too.
  2. Try a comprehensive multi-vitamin and mineral formula to fill in any deficiencies in your diet. Look for one high in B vitamins and iron. Go one step further and try a hair nutrition supplement, such as Nourkrin or Viviscal which contain marine proteins.
  1. Get some regular, light exercise – especially outdoors in the sunlight. The sunlight will lift your mood, the exercise will lift your spirits, too, and give you more energy over time.
  1. Make sure your hair is shampooed and conditioned even if you don't have time for styling. You will feel better if your hair is clean and fresh. Failing that make use of dry shampoos – they're a life saver if you're rushed! They rarely leave a chalky matte finish nowadays.

    Try: Naked Volume Shampoo and Weightless Conditioner
    Try: Boots Paradise Island & Original Dry Shampoos

Dry Skin
Washing face © Vitalij Geraskin -

I get the occasional flare-up of dermatitis when I use too many chemicals at work (it's all that cleaning up after children!). However, when I'm stressed my eczema comes back. I used to suffer as a child but never have as an adult until recently. Stress can exacerbate dry skin conditions, so do keep an eye on any areas prone to it. For me it's hands and arms, especially the elbows.

I suspect that other than the stress the fact I've rarely been taking my usual omega oils hasn't helped matters. It just goes to show that a regular intake of omegas 3, 6 and 9 can work wonders for the skin, especially if – like me – you can't eat fish because of an allergy.  Fish is an excellent source of omega 3 and it's well worth incorporating oily fish in your diet if you can.

Admittedly, I've haven't made time for moisturising, either. Of course it doesn't take long, but when your mind is on other things you tend to skip body creams even though I've needed them more now than I ever have!

So, what are the next steps to reclaim that glowing skin?

  1. Up your intake of omega oils! If you can't manage this with your diet try a balanced omega 3, 6 and 9 supplement. I've upped my dosage from one to three of Tesco's own Omega supplement a day – it's a cheap way to boost your intake. Omega 3 eases depression and reduces stress and aggression, too!

    Try: Vertese Vegan Omega Oils 3·6·9
  1. Drink more. No, not alcohol or coffee, they're dehydrating! Get more water, fruit and vegetables juices down you. Keeping hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your skin. It's like moisturising from the inside out. Aim for 2 litres of water a day.
  1. Eggs contain protein which helps with cell regeneration and they nutrients that promote hydration and elasticity. They will not only help your skin look and feels supple but will benefit your hair, too. Plus eggs are easy and versatile to cook! Always a bonus.
  1. Choose genuinely natural, gentle body washes. Scrubbing away with harsh cleansers absent-mindedly isn't going to do your skin any good whatsoever. Find a nourishing, low-foaming formula and avoid exfoliating any dry patches.

    Try: Green People Vitamin Shower Gel
  1. Ideally we should all moisturise top-to-toe, especially when we're suffering from lacklustre skin but if you really can't find the time to do that then tackle the dry patches using an emollient to 'lock-in' nourishment. You can carry one around with you for regular touch-ups. That'll soon have any problem areas sorted.

    Try: Burt's Bees Sensitive Aloe & Buttermilk Body Lotion
    Try: Yu-Be Moisturising Skin Cream 

Follow these steps for a couple of weeks - as I intend to! - and hopefully you'll soon be back to your healthy-looking, healthy-feeling self again.  Periods of stress are just that - periods - they shouldn't last forever if you take action.  The quicker and more comprehensively you tackle stresses effects the better equipped you'll be for any future episodes.  Knowledge is power!

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