Stress and Skin: What's the Connection?

Stress and skin.  What do these have in common? When you’re feeling stressed, normal mechanisms in your body shut down.  Your system feels overloaded and it starts eliminating certain tasks while prioritizing what absolutely needs to be done.  The body goes into a protective mode which may temporarily take the body out of repair mode.  Renewal and repair of all tissues in our body including our skin can take a backseat.

I often talk about the concept of the parasympathetic versus the sympathetic nervous systems with my patients.   Our parasympathetic nervous system is our “rest and digest” response while our sympathetic nervous system is the “fight or flight” response.  Our bodies would appreciate more parasympathetic time. Over time, too much “fight or flight” can wear us down if we don’t learn how to manage our stress, exhaustion, lack of sleep and poor habits.

Modern life can put a lot of pressure on us and often we see the effects through our skin.  Stress can age us, leaving our skin riddled with acne, increased pigmentation, lines, dullness and loss of elasticity.  

Have you noticed that when you feel better, you look better and when you look better, you feel better?  There are many ways you can improve the chemistry in your body.  Balancing stress and optimizing the secretion of hormones is something we can manage by just taking a few simple steps.  Understanding your emotions, exercising, sleeping better and eating well are just a few of the basics.  

We also recommend acupuncture in our clinic to manage stress, decrease inflammation, detoxify the body and promote your body’s natural ability to heal. There are numerous scientific studies which have shown that acupuncture is effective in lowering stress hormones including a peptide known as NPY which is secreted during the “fight or flight” response.  Acupuncture has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate.  Most patients say they feel very relaxed and rested after an acupuncture session. 

When we put a holistic health plan together and address ways in which to lower stress, our patients are motivated by the changes and improvements they see both on the inside and outside.

Clara Barnett ND, LAc

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