Have you ever experienced a lot of anxiety, nerves, and stress…after which you noticed new, inflamed pimples on your face?
This happens to me around my travels. I get super stressed about packing and making sure that I don’t forget anything, and end up breaking out. I actually experience a lot of anxiety over really mall things…I know it’s my own fault.
Today I want to talk about stress, it’s effects on your skin and your overall health, and how to lower cortisol levels for clear skin.
The Effects Of Stress
Cortisol is a stress hormone. It regulates the metabolism of glucose (blood sugar levels) and blood pressure. In small doses, cortisol is actually beneficial.
In fact, cortisol can SAVE YOUR LIFE!
Say you were chased by a tiger. Well, your cortisol levels would rise telling your body to use your glucose stores for immediate energy. In this case, cortisol can give you added speed or strength to either outrun the tiger or to fight it. In this context, cortisol increases awareness and boosts strength and energy.
But nowadays we get stressed over small things like deadlines or talking to that super hot guy….You’re not in danger, but your body is reacting as though you’re about to die.
NEW IN 2017!
The problem arises when cortisol levels are chronically high. It can cause insulin resistance which creates skin problems.
Elevated cortisol also has the capacity to weaken collagen and elastin in the skin, making your skin weak and more susceptible to inflammation and being damaged by acne.
Stress is no good for acne. Period.
It can make your skin oilier, it can cause inflammation of our digestive tract, slowing or halting nutrient absorption…
If you’re stressed, your body isn’t going to absorb those much-needed nutrients no matter how healthy you eat.
Ultimately, chronically elevated cortisol levels can even cause leaky gut! I discussed leaky gut in more detail here…Leaky gut is when your intestine becomes permeable, and allows unwanted intruders into your bloodstream, causing an immune response. Leaky gut can easily lead to food sensitivities and even autoimmune diseases!
Digestive problems can definitely affect your skin, and everything else.
As you can see, lowering cortisol is a significant factor in good skin and overall health.
What Can I Do To Lower Cortisol?
1. Improve Your Posture
Be mindful of your posture. A Study done by Harvard researcher, Amy Cuddy, showed that ‘high power’ poses lower cortisol by up to 25%, while low power poses increase cortisol by 15%.
High power poses include taking up a lot of space – stretching out luxuriously as though you’re a boss. Space is status.
I actually do this on dates (I did it before knowing anything about the research). One guy even commented on how confident I appear because of my relaxed and stretched out body language.
Trick your primitive mind by adopting confident body language. It will translate not only in lower cortisol, but people will gravitate to you too. There’s nothing more sexy and magnetic than confidence!
It really helps to take on a power pose for about to 2 minutes right before a big meeting or presentation (even if it’s in a bathroom stall). You’ll be more confident, and you’ll lower stress.
There are no benefits to slouching. Slouching tells your primitive body that you’re sad and weak, and it also impairs digestive function…You also look less attractive while slouching.
Nowadays we’re all hunched over our phones and computers, and there’s even a coined phrase: ‘texster’s neck’. Looking down is like tying a bowling ball to your neck…It hurts your neck in the long term and can cause headaches!
So stand up straight and keep that head up high, or in the words of my grandma…”Chest forward, butt back.” My grandma has amazing posture and she’s in her late seventies.
2. Fake Smiles and Laughs
Forcing yourself to smile or laugh will have a similar effect to taking on a power pose. It will trick your brain into thinking that you’re really happy, and it will actually change your brain chemistry to reflect genuine happiness.
Try it, it’s kind of funny!
This is the cheapest, easiest trick to relieve stress and instantly improve your mood too. Yes, you might feel silly at first, but this trick will come naturally with practice.
Smiling also makes you look more attractive! I have resting b*tch face, and have to be mindful not to appear angry by default…So I have to smile!
3. Just Breathe
Breathing deeply through your nose lowers cortisol INSTANTLY. If you’re experiencing a particularly stressful moment, stop and just breathe through your nose. Take a deep breath in, and release for longer…
You can also try meditating. Just sit and be present with your breaths. Let thoughts come and go without attaching any significance to them. Ohm….
I once asked a particularly ripped friend of mine how he got so ripped (we were teenagers). He told me that he exercised when he was angry, and he got angry often (as teenagers do).
Exercise is such an incredible addition to your lifestyle, and the endorphins and getting outside of your head will help lower stress while toning your body!
You can go for a run with some really good music or an audiobook, or if you want something a little less intense, you can try pilates or yoga. Sports are also a great way to relieve stress and get out some bottled aggression.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic ayurvedic herb. An adaptogen is any plant or compound that helps the body regain hormonal or psychological balance in times of stress.
Countless experiments with Ashwagandha have proven that it does indeed lower cortisol, and up to 27% after about 60 days. It’s also useful in treating anxiety and depression and helps improve quality of sleep
Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties lowering fat-soluble free radicals in the blood.
But it has a potential side effect: might make you strong like bull!
Ashwagandha can increase testosterone – which is great for building muscle, an even mood, but this can also increase sebum production.
If your skin is excessively oily, than ashwagandha may not be for you – BUT if your skin is DRY then this can be exactly what you need to not only lower stress and improve immune function, but to also hydrate your skin.
Oily skin is shown to age more slowly, so consider ashwagandha an anti-aging herb too!
However, because ashwagandha is an adaptogen, it means it BALANCES whatever needs balancing. So if testosterone levels are too low, then it will raise them. If they’re too high, it will likely lower them. The testosterone raising effect has been mainly seen in studies in infertile men, so I wouldn’t worry about it in women. I take ashwagandha every day…that explains my deep voice.
Only buy organic Ashwagandha for best effects! You can take Ashwagandha in powder form in your smoothie, but I prefer it in capsule form because quite frankly, Ashwagandha is known to taste like manure. I can’t handle it in a smoothie…
6. Take Off Your Shoes
I like to walk on grass whenever I can… it always makes me feel really good.
When you walk barefoot or lay on the ground and connect directly with the earth, it’s called ‘earthing’.
Historically, humans were in constant contact with the surface of the earth – they didn’t have roads, shoes, rugs, houses…Nowadays we’re hardly ever barefoot outside – your patio doesn’t count!
Researchers have shown that ‘earthing’ actually has anti-inflammatory and cortisol lowering effects on us. It improves our sleep quality and it negates the effects of stress and electromagnetic pollution. It’s also very calming.
Feeling stressed? Kick off those shoes and find a patch of grass to walk on.
7. Skip The Caffeine
Research has shown that caffeine increases cortisol levels. Drinking coffee all the time will make your cortisollevels greater, impacting your sleep quality, and potentially tiring out your adrenals. Too much coffee is not a good thing, especially in this coffee culture.
I loved coffee, and used to drink 1-3 cups of it a day because of the incredible taste. I noticed that it amped up my general anxiety and made it difficult, if not impossible to fall asleep. I quit coffee and I started to sleep well!
But when I heard that J.Lo doesn’t drink caffeine, I knew I made the right decision for my health! That woman just doesn’t age, and I have mad respect for her. If caffeine is on J.Lo’s no-no list, then it’s on mine too!
Maintaining healthy levels of stress is important for not only clear skin but a better mood and better health too. I hope that these strategies help you cope with stress more easily and make life a cakewalk!
If you have any other ideas on how to deal with stress, write them in the comments below.
P.S. If you need help on your skin-clearing journey, sign up to get 28 of my BEST hacks for clear skin here!
Cortisol and Caffeine Article