More on Stress

Stressed_3_tns          In a previous post, I addressed my concerns about the use of the word “pamper” to describe the relaxation one experiences during a facial. My argument was based on my belief that anything done to relieve stress and its accompanying ill effects should be viewed as wellness. And unlike pampering, which we feel we have to earn, wellness is a practice we should feel comfortable committing to on an ongoing basis to maintain good health. So after reading that post, I’m certain you are now committed to scheduling a facial with me once month, right?

Still need more convincing?

We all know stress is bad for us. We hear it all the time. But do you really know what that means, how it happens or what it does to our bodies? Maybe a closer look at how your body reacts to stress will help you make the decision to do something about it (and not feel guilty!).

Now I will admit I’m a nerd, but I am not a scientist and probably most of you aren’t either. So even though this is a highly scientific process, I’m not going to talk about the HPA Axis and how messenger molecules tell the hypothalamus to release hormones that tell the pituitary gland to tell the, adrenal glands to release more hormones, blah, blah, blah. Most of you are probably already nodding off, but for those of you who enjoy this much information, I will provide a link at the bottom of this post where you can go to find all those gory details.


In order to maintain balance within the body, there are two major parts of our nervous system that function in balance with each other. The parasympathetic nervous system which is our “rest and recovery mode” and the sympathetic nervous system, our “flight or fight mode” and one of these two states is always engaged. Our sympathetic nervous system was particularly useful to primitive man to prepare the body to escape an attacking animal, or fight a neighboring tribe. During times of stress, when the sympathetic nervous system is engaged, the body redirects blood flow from other organs to the brain to help make quick decisions, and more energy to the muscles to flee or attack. Once the danger had passed, the body returns to the parasympathetic state allowing for normal bodily functions.

Modern man is no longer plagued by the same dangers as our ancestors, but we still deal with stress every day, most of it psychological. The type of stress we experience may have changed, but the way our bodies react to it has not. And because for many people the stress is constant, the body has little or no time for recovery and repair. Our bodies are designed to experience stress, and it can help keep us alert and motivated, as well as keep us safe, but the sympathetic nervous system is designed to work on a short term basis, and when we are in a constant state of stress our bodies suffer.

Here’s what happens when the body perceives a stressful event:

  • All the senses go on alert.
  • Heart rate increases.
  • Blood pressure rises.
  • Blood vessels dilate.
  • The digestive system slows down.
  • The liver produces glucose.
  • The immune system slows down.
  • The bodies growth and repair functions stop.

All of these reactions occur because the body is rerouting blood and energy to our muscles and brain which leaves our other organs and systems in a more vulnerable state. If  the stress passes quickly, the body returns to the parasympathetic mode and we are able to continue normal bodily functions. No harm done.

Unfortunately, for many of us our lives are so busy and active and filled with stress, that we rarely give our bodies time to rest and recover. We are in a constant state of chronic stress, causing our energy reserves to be depleted and because our immune system is compromised, we are more susceptible to disease and disorder. There are very few diseases in which stress cannot play an aggravating role, but the following is a list of some of the more common effects of chronic stress:

  • ·Headaches
  •  High blood pressure
  • ·Heart problems
  •  Diabetes
  •  Asthma
  • Arthritis
  •  Depression
  •  Anxiety
  • Intestinal distress
  • Skin disorders

Since I am an Esthetician and this blog is focused on skin care, let’s look more closely at how the skin is affected by chronic stress.

  •  Rosacea can worsen due to the dilation of blood vessels.  Increased vasodilation can weaken the capillary walls increasing the likelihood of broken blood vessels and increased skin redness.
  •  Acne can be impacted by the release of hormones that cause increased activity of the oil glands.  The oil mixes with dead skin cells clogging the pores and trapping bacteria inside, resulting in more breakouts.  An increase in inflammation caused by stress can weaken the walls of the pores, causing them to break.  When this happens, the body responds with redness around the   broken pore, and an influx of pus.
  •  Dry skin, as a result of the depletion of bodily fluids. This can impair skin barrier function allowing more irritants, allergens and infectious agents to penetrate the skin.  The build up of dry skin can also give the skin a dull appearance.
  • Premature aging.  Decreased blood flow means the skin is not receiving the  necessary nutrients it needs and waste is not being removed, which can make  the skin appear older.  Plus dry skin makes lines and wrinkles more visible        and the increased glucose levels can damage collagen causing the skin to sag.
  • Psoriasis, eczema and rashes can all become worse during times of stress as a result of an increase in the amounts of inflammation producing  neuropeptides  in the skin.
  •  Excessive hair growth as a result of  fluctuating hormones.
  •  Autoimmune diseases  like vitiligo (depigmented white spots on the skin) and alopecia (hair loss) can become worse as a consequence of the immune system being compromised.
  • Cold sores can flare up due to a depressed immune system.

Since 43% of adults report experiencing adverse effects of stress and 75-90% of all doctors visits are for stress related ailments and complaints, it’s obvious we need to do something to stop the stress cycle. By taking steps to minimize stress, we can allow our bodies to move toward wellness to help reduce our chances for contracting serious disease with the added bonus of the improvement in the appearnce of the skin. Whether you practice yoga, meditate, take long walks or get a facial, I encourage you to find a path to recovery from stress. You’ll look better, feel better, and you may live a  longer healthier life.

In a future post I’ll offer some ideas for simple ways to incorporate stress reduction techniques into your daily routine.  Stay tuned!

For more information on stress go to:


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Stress | JENNFANG
    • facetimewithjudy
      Oct 16, 2013 @ 10:16:57

      Thanks so much for linking to my post. I am working on a post on simple tips to reduce stress and I will return the favor and provide a link to your post. You covered a few things I did not that I think are important. Particularly that stress is subjective, what stresses one person may not stress another, and that not all stress is bad. Since you have an interest in the spa industry and becoming an esthetician, you should check out my post on why I think pamper is a dirty word, posted on Oct. 7,2013.


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