The Face of Holiday Stress Affects on the Body and Skin

The holiday season is a joyful time of giving, celebrating, and family gathering. But that most wonderful time of the year can, in fact, be not so wonderful when you consider all the stress caused by the season. The holidays are fraught with unrealistic expectations, trying to ” do it all”, overeating rich foods, alcohol consumption, and sleep deprivation, all of which contribute to our elevated stress levels. And in our fervor to get everything done, we are often so busy we ignore the warning signs written all over our faces.

By understanding how stress affects us, we can learn to control it and find effective ways to prevent it. Your face is the first to signal dangers ahead. Stress sets off a chemical reaction in your body that can make your skin more sensitive and reactive.

Let’s unwrap the signs of stress that show up on your face.

1. Dullness and dryness

Stress triggers a hormone called cortisol, which slows down the renewal of skin cells, making them take longer to surface and flake off. As a result, the skin cells build up, making the skin look dull and lifeless, and wrinkles deeper. Cortisol also reduces the skin’s ability to retain water, and it lowers the level of protective lipids in the skin.

To combat dull, dry skin, stay hydrated with at least eight glasses of pure water a day, and cut down on the eggnog. Exfoliate your skin at least 2-3 times a week to allow the new cells to grow. Acupuncture can also be very effective by activating the kidneys and circulation, and helping to detoxify the body. Finally, supplement these measures with essential fatty acids containing the right ratio of Omega 3-6-9. Eat foods rich with good oils, such as flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, as well as fish like salmon and sardines.

2. Sagging

Excessive amounts of cortisol lead to a loss of elastin and collagen. With non-elastic skin, sagging and the appearance of jowls occur. It happens with aging and during stress because of the reduced absorption of vital nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and certain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, and essential for muscles. External factors such as repetitive facial expressions, sleeping positions, smoking and sun exposure can also prematurely age your skin and lead to sagging. Loss of muscle tone also contributes to loose neck skin.

You can bolster the collagen in your skin by finding creative ways to use these collagen stimulating foods in your holiday meals: bone broth, pumpkin seeds, avocado, tomatoes, garlic, dark green vegetables, carrots, almonds, berries, kiwi and more. Supplement this step by using topical creams with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. And if the holiday stress is getting the best of you, schedule a recovery “me” day that includes facial rejuvenation acupuncture and micro current stimulation to work on the motor points that tone muscles and increase skin circulation.

3. Skin infections, blemishes and fever blisters

The epidermis usually forms a strong barrier that blocks the entry of bacteria such as staphylococcus, streptococcus or other environmental toxins. When the protective barrier becomes thin and weakened, it’s ineffective against harmful bacteria, which penetrate the skin and create inflammation such as acne and black heads, and other blemishes. Stress also increases the possibility of pores being blocked entirely.

Here, your best defense is to keep your skin clean with mild cleanser and follow with a good moisturizer. Besides seeing a specialist for severe cases, less serious skin conditions can improve by avoiding the holiday cookies, along with a few other changes to your diet: reduce or exclude inflammatory foods like sugar, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, MSG, gluten and casein, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods. Because each of us is unique, testing can be done to pinpoint specific concerns about food allergies/sensitivities, as well as micronutrient testing to see what the body is missing. Detoxification through acupuncture and individualized herbs or homeopathic can be prescribed as needed.

In the case of fever blisters, immune system support should be provided to help the body to fight the virus. Lemon balm, L-Lysine, Zinc therapy, oregano oil, licorice extract, and/or tea tree oil can be used as natural approaches. The condition of your intestinal tract is also important because it is a big part of your immunity. Probiotics and prebiotics will be good to start with.

4. Red, tired eyes

Tired and puffy eyes can be caused by long days of work, long nights of gift wrapping, overstimulation of adrenals, lack of sleep, a diet rich in processed foods and sugars, and an excess of animal fat—all the hallmarks of the holiday, so is it any wonder?

There are simple, natural solutions for tired, red eyes. Get your beauty sleep by using good sleep hygiene: a regular bed time without use of the phone or computer; a regular waking time; and a consistent number of hours, usually about 8. Schedule the heaviest meal of the day earlier and the lightest at night. And to reduce the bags under your eyes, try facial rejuvenation acupuncture and facial lymphatic massage.

5. Hair thinning and loss

Cortisol interacts with other hormones, especially adrenal and thyroid hormones, and with neurotransmitters, which can interfere with the natural hair growth cycle. It also causes premature greying by signaling the hair follicles to stop producing color.

Chinese herbs like shou wu, fo-ti and others can prevent adrenal insufficiency. Scalp acupuncture and cold laser treatments help to increase scalp circulation for better hair growth.

6. Weight gain

Stress can trigger emotional overeating, which compromises impulse control, satiation signals, and interferes with the production of Leptin, all leading to weight gain. As a result, it can contribute to other health problems such as cardiovascular problems, stroke and diabetes. And weight gain literally changes the shape of your face.

It seems cruel to ask yourself to practice self-control during the holidays when there is a meal or party or platter of baked good at every turn; but it’s essential to help with stress. Although there are multiple diets available on the market, each person is unique and must choose their own weight loss approach accordingly. So much depends on nutrient absorption, hormonal condition, and one’s emotional status and willingness to follow the protocol. Food combinations, portion control and supplementation of missing nutrients are crucial to returning to fitness, as well as a fitness regimen that is appropriate for one’s health level and age.

7. Premature aging

At the time of stress and exertion, the body redirects blood flow and the oxygen it carries to the vital organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, adrenals and liver. Hormonal glands such as adrenal, thyroid, pituitary, and hypothalamus are working very hard to keep up with the stress and prevent fatigue. If less nourishment and oxygen is directed to the skin, free radicals are created and accumulate in the skin causing wrinkles, lines, age spots and more.

 Fix: facial massage and acupuncture work by releasing muscle tension and increasing blood flow to the skin, helping the skin to look younger. Acupuncture also supports and increases vitality of the hormonal glands. Good nutrition and powerful antioxidants prevent free radical damage. There are also several unique adaptogens—unique plants or herbs that support your adrenal system—to cope with unexpected situations and the high speed of life.

8. Other areas

Other areas that stress affects are musculo-skeletal systems at the point when muscles tense up and can create neck and back pain, headaches and more. A weakened respiratory system, especially during the winter, makes you susceptible to colds and flu. And stress can negatively affect how male and female reproductive systems function, and cause gastrointestinal problems.

Research suggests that stress is associated with shorter telomere length. Telomeres are the end caps of each chromosome. Studies show that women with the highest perceived stress had telomere lengths like that of women a decade older, meaning that stress affects us on a chromosome level as well.

It’s unrealistic to think your holiday season is going to be completely stress-free, but you can control how much of an effect these inherent stressors will have on you if you learn to pay attention to your face and your body. Be on the lookout for these other signs of stress:

• Irritability

• Fatigue

• Headache

• Muscle pain

• Stomach upset

• Nervousness

• Insomnia

Slow down, breath, don’t sweat the small staff, prioritize, reduce your expectations, and take care of your body. These steps will help make for happier holidays!

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