Who can deny that 2020 has been a very strange year? When lockdown was announced in March, it felt like I had been handed a role in an apocalyptic movie without the script. So, there was no chance of reading the closing scenes to find out how the movie ended.
Like everyone else has had to do, I am having to walk this one out. However, it does not have to be lived with a complete sense of disempowerment, no matter how out of control it all feels. If we had forgotten before, we have been reminded through our universal trial, that humans are extremely resilient. We find ways to adapt, survive, change, and grow, and in some cases, thrive in difficult circumstances with an uncertain future.
Covid-19 is shocking and has caused shock. Shock can make us feel numb, but I think it’s nature’s way of helping us to keep functioning (on autopilot) through a painful event. It is like hitting a pause button so that we don’t feel the full impact of the pain all at once. It allows us breathing space so that we can slowly come to terms with the trauma.
As someone who lives with chronic pain, the shock of Covid-19 heightened my pain responses. It came to a point where I had to stop listening to the news and spend more time focusing on relaxing and getting my body to unwind.
Recently I have noted that my skin has become drier and very clogged, not something I normally experience at such levels. Shortly after, I was exfoliating my skin when I became aware of how bugged I felt about the change. It was yet ANOTHER change. Another reminder that things are different, and all at once I felt sad and angry.
I also recognised that my emotional response didn’t fit the ‘crime’, but that is the thing about stress and shock, it changes and heightens our emotions. So, dear friend, we must be patient with ourselves and others and realise that this difficult and horrible season will change and that it will not always be winter. Spring is on its way.I also recognise that my awareness of my emotions is a sign that the numbness is lifting and the pain and hurt of these last few months is coming out. It is a good sign. It is helping me understand where I am at.
For example, in Act 1 Scene 1 of my personal apocalyptic movie, I went into deep shock, but it allowed me to act and make all manner of emergency changes to protect myself and my family and see what I could do to help in the community.
Now, as I start to emerge from the safety of my home and return to Gift Fairs, shopping, eating, and socialising, I feel like I have joined ranks with the warriors of The Walking Dead. We are living with a threat, trying to capture a moment of normality, but not allowing our guards to come down. No yet. Not until the threat is over.
So, has the stress of these last few months taking its toll on my skin? Is it simply another manifestation of ageing, or a symptom of midlife hormonal changes? Could it be the result of our warmer weather? Any one of these could be the cause, but I am inclined to think that all four have come together to create the perfect storm for my skin to have a major freak out.
If your skin is showing signs of stress, there are several things that you can do. It is a holistic approach that involves your emotional, nutritional and physical well-being.
An important part of maintaining our sanity, health and skin’s integrity is learning how to lower stress levels. This is not a self-indulgent past time, because if we do not learn a few stress management skills, we may end up with too much cortisol hanging around in our bodies.
This can cause a nasty cycle of ongoing chronic stress, which will accelerate the ageing process and bring on health issues such as inflammation, chronic pain, heart disease and depression (oh the list goes on!).
I am a retired Psychotherapist, so I am drawing on my experience with some suggestions for you consider that may help you reduce stress:
- If you can’t sleep, rest. kick back to some relaxing music, complete a word search, use a sauna, swim, or anything else that helps you to unwind. Avoid anything that requires lots of frantic energy, or getting into hot debates on social media. Learn to rest!
- Skincare – treat yourself to a home spa, anything from a face mask to some me time relaxing in the bath.
- If stress is leaving your skin flakier than normal and clogging your pores, make sure you exfoliate properly. It will help your skin appear brighter, and you happier!
- Has your skin condition emerged as a result of the stress of Covid-19 pandemic? Signs include: Eczema, Acne, Hives, Rosacea, Psoriasis
- Besides stress, we need to consider that prolonged use of masks and excessive personal hygiene has resulted in pressure injury, acne, contact dermatitis, itching and exacerbation of pre-existing skin conditions. Emollients, barrier creams and moisturisers are essential to protect the skin and prevent any skin complications.
- Don’t go out without sun protection, too much unprotected exposure causes premature ageing and can lead to other health problems.
- Your skin mirrors on the outside what is happening inside, so take care of your mential and emotional wellbeing. Go for a walk in the countryside or a park. Time spent in nature has a wonderful way of massaging our shoulder and helping us unwind without even trying!
- Learn to say no. If you tend to over commit, that may be difficult to do straight away, so take a smaller size step and practice saying ‘let me think about it first’. That way you have time to reflect over whether you want to do it and prepare your answer accordingly.
- Slow down: Create bigger margins – we always assume things don’t take that long. For example, if you give yourself normally an x amount of time to get the groceries
- Eat more fruit and vegetables, as these are high in anti-oxidants and give your skin cells the compounds it needs to help repair the damage caused by high cortisol levels.
- You are not meant to do it all, learn to delegate some things and let others go.
- Seek support, if you are struggling with chronic stress, the menopause or Covid-19, please reach out. We all need someone to talk to and make sense of life at times. It’s one of the keys to success and reducing stress.
- Get active – be careful with this one. If you are suffering with chronic stress, it’s harder for the body to recover from exercise and can lead to injury. It would be better to go for a walk or book a gentle yoga session.
And last, but not least
The one constant in life is change, and our skin is no exception. There are some changes that impact it more than others, such as adolescence, pregnancy, climate changes (holiday or moving to a new country) and the menopause.
I think I am safe to say, that midlife skin changes are the ones that tend to hit women the hardest. Along with ups and downs of the menopause, realising that we are losing youth can trigger stress and insecurity. It can even bring existential issues to the surface.
None of this is bad or evil. The menopausal season is part of how life has been organised. It‘s nature’s way of starting off a new season, which means a new beginning.
This is your time to be exceedingly kind to yourself instead of standing in the mirror nit picking at your appearance and giving yourself a hard time. (The only thing that will do is increase your stress and anxiety levels).
Also remember, that we have grown up in a culture that strong links to youth and physical beauty. It’s a worn-out marketing strategy that has made a lot of people rich, but all it has done for the most part is underestimate a woman’s real value. It’s time we claimed that back!
So, take a deep breath and decide to ditch those false beliefs. You are unique, a woman of worth and you have a purpose. It is love and a kind heart, not a pretty face, that make a woman incredibly beautiful all through her life.
If any of the above suggestions speak to you, how is your time to accept the nudge and put your well-being on the map!