How to Regulate the Body’s Response to Stress

Stress not only plagues our minds but is one of the leading contributors to unhealthy skin.
Particularly stressful periods can be accompanied with flare-ups in acne or a skin disease. For this we can blame cortisol—the primary stress hormone.

by Carmen Catterfield, MA, Honeybee Healing & Counseling Services

Cortisol’s goal is to suppress non-essential functions in the body so we can focus entirely on responding in the moment to a perceived or real threat. The issue with the prolonged or chronic stress prominent in our culture today is that there may be a multitude of stressful incidents lasting over a long period of time.

In this case, cortisol’s suppression of functions can lead to damaging effects on our body, including our skin.

Cortisol can lead to internal inflammation that causes skin irritation, as well as flare-ups of skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. Cortisol also increases activity in the sebaceous glands leading to higher-than-normal levels of oil, which in turn can block pores and cause an increase in acne and skin reactions.

If your normal skin routine isn’t working anymore to help manage your outbreaks, it may be time to consider how stress is impacting your life. Although we may not be able to change the stressful situation(s) we are in, we can help regulate our body’s response to stress.

Drink water — The recommended amount of water per day is half your body weight in ounces. Water can help flush out cortisol faster from our systems.

Exercise — It is recommended that a person engage in some kind of exercise three to four times a week for 20 minutes. It can be as simple as walking your dog through the neighborhood. Exercise helps our lymphatic symptoms remove toxins like excess cortisol from our systems.

Sleep — If you can, get as close to seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep is when important bodily functions occur including regulating our nervous system.

Relaxation exercises — Engage in stretching your body, taking deep breaths, and practicing mindfulness. The Calm app is a great resource that offers five- to 10-minute relaxation exercises.

Connect — We cannot manage stress on our own. Reach out to friends and family and share what is going on with you. You may also want to consider seeking counseling if your life stressors become unmanageable.