Enduring a global pandemic is no mean feat. Most of us are experiencing elevated levels of stress right now and it’s definitely affecting our health. So much so that doctors are reporting record numbers of patients wondering if they have chronic fatigue syndrome. As it turns out, that bone dead feeling you might be experiencing – the COVID malaise – is to be expected. It’s the fallout of a brain living in a more subtle and extended version of the “fight or flight mode” brought on by a constant state of uncertainty.
Fatigue aside, constant stress can also have an effect on your skin. Anyone with a chronic skin condition like eczema or psoriasis will know that stress is a major trigger for a flare-up. This is because stress and inflammation go hand in hand. Then we’ve got the hormone issue. When we’re stressed out, our body’s cortisol and adrenal levels spike. Ironically, this weakens our immune systems in a time when we need it most. It also triggers an inflammatory response and revs up your skin’s oil glands – the perfect storm for an acne breakout.
Treat the source
Taking good care of your skin during this stressful time is important. Even if you’re exhausted, don’t skip taking your make-up off before bed or neglect your usual routine. If you’re experiencing an inflammatory skin condition flare-up or acne breakout, chat to one of our doctors about medical-grade skincare you can use at home. However, if you’re to quell the source, you’ll need to find a way to manage your stress. This could mean performing an anxiety-easing yoga class, something you could access via YouTube. It might require downloading a meditation app. Or maybe you just make the time to go easy on yourself and do more of what you enjoy, be it baking or painting.
Another way to help support your body is via supplementation. This is especially important if you’re currently living on a lockdown diet where comfort eating is the order of the day. Half a roll of chocolate digestive biscuits might seem like a good enough breakfast today, but in the long-term, you’ll only run your body down.
Here are just a few supplements that can help you manage stress:
We all know omega-3s have amazing health benefits, particularly when it comes to beating inflammation. However, studies have found that people suffering from anxiety disorders typically have lower levels of omega-3s and supplementation helped reduce the symptoms of clinical anxiety.
The B group of vitamins have always had a reputation for being a stress buster and with good reasoning. They help maintain a healthy nervous system and ensuring you get enough of them can stabilise your mood. Also, vitamin B6 and B12 play an active role in the creation of serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitter.
Gama aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that has a calming effect. While it occurs naturally in your body, many people simply don't make enough of it. Interestingly, studies have found that those who's brains make the least GABA are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and insomnia. Studies have shown that supplementation may assist with easing all three conditions.
L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea leaves, has been proven to promote a sense of calm and can reduce a resting heart rate. Better yet, it does so without inducing any drowsiness, so if you’re working from home or have a family to take care of, it’s not going to slow you down. Also, as it produces a more relaxed state, it might help you turn off at night if you’ve been struggling to sleep.
The bottom line
We’re living in an unprecedentedly stressful time. Feeling anxious is normal but if left unchecked it can affect your health as well as your skin. To mitigate the damage, make a concerted effort to keep your stress levels in check. There are lots of ways to do this, but you can never go wrong with prioritising daily exercise, eating a healthy diet and taking supplements to fill in the gap. Life will eventually go back to normal. Until then, take care of yourself and remember that we’re all in this together.