It’s National Stress Awareness Day so we’ve uncovered the best ways to restore your Zen and banish anxiety, insomnia and acne
News from the Mental Health Foundation doesn’t exactly make for relaxing reading: 74% of UK adults feel overwhelmed by stress and unable to cope. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the wellness industry is now worth £2.8 trillion worldwide as we try to find new ways to decompress and chill out.
Improve your sleep
This is particularly true of sleep. A survey of thousands of Britons by the Oxford Economics and National Centre for Social Research, found sleeping well was considered more important than a pay rise in the happiness stakes.
But with many of us literally losing sleep due to the symptoms of stress and those eight hours snooze now considered as aspirational as clean eating, experts are turning our attention to magnesium in bodycare.
‘Magnesium can quieten the nervous system by binding to a calming neurotransmitter known as GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid],’ says Annee de Mamiel, founder of de Mamiel Botaniques. ‘It also helps to regulate melatonin, which guides our circadian rhythm [your internal body clock that regulates when you fall asleep and wake].’
Get stress-free skin
Stress can also affect your skin. When stress hormones remain elevated, they suppress the immune system and weaken the skin’s barrier function, which can cause eczema and psoriasis to flare up. The hormone cortisol, in particular, causes the skin to produce more oily sebum, which blocks pores and aggravates acne.
Probiotics are emerging as a magic bullet for our stressed-out, reactive complexions. They effectively restore balance to the skin’s microbiome, where good bacteria exist to prevent irritation.
‘Probiotics also discourage the growth of bad bacteria such as p.acnes, the bacteria that causes acne, by producing antimicrobials and changing the skin’s pH levels,’ says Dr Dendy Engelman, Elizabeth Arden’s Consulting Dermatologist. ‘Surface level, when you don’t have bad bacteria growing on the skin, you also have fewer spots and less inflammation.’
Adaptogens – therapeutic herbs and spices – is another trend gaining popularity in wellness circles. ‘The theory behind adaptogenic plants is that they interact with your body chemistry to bring you back into balance, particularly when you are under attack from stressors like cold weather or chronic fatigue,’ says skincare founder Sunday Riley.
When used topically, turmeric, for example, dampens the skin’s inflammatory responses because it contains curcumin, a powerful compound that helps your body fight foreign invaders and also has a role in repairing damage. Put simply, it sets you up with younger, brighter, less fussy skin.
With the cortisol levels in our bloodstream near boiling point, here’s our pick of the best products to help you stress less…
Thought lavender was only for grandmas? This will persuade you otherwise. Lavender contains the compound linalool, which is an anaesthetic. Smelling it increases alpha waves in the frontal regions of brain, encouraging you to relax.
Take the edge off turbulent times by adding this potent blend of Epsom salts, Himalayan ink salt, valerian root, plus grounding essential oils of frankincense and sandalwood to the tub.
Caudalie has bottled all you need to fight spot-causing bacteria: grape polyphenols and purifying organic essential oils so that’s one less thing to worry about.
Brighten your mood as well as your skin with this serum. Also nice: antioxidant turmeric soothes skin when it sees red.
The bottle may be teeny but the mix of bergamot, neroli and sandalwood gives you an olfactory lift and sends your mind to carefree summer days. Keep it in your handbag and roll it onto your wrists for a stress-free commute.
When stress-levels are high, mix into hot or cold beverages, and let the natural adaptogenic herbs (goji, reishi and astragalus) slice through tension and promote peace of mind.
Mist onto your pillow before bed and deeply breath in the aroma of chamomile, lavender and vetiver until you feel more reassured and your breathing becomes more even.
This breaks down water and essential oils into tiny particles that humidify the air. These act as a natural moisturiser, keeping skin healthy at the same time.
Tension headache? When massaged into temples the cooling eucalyptus melts away stress while the hit of rosemary and lavender is like olfactory Prozac.
Encourage sleep by anointing pulse points and temples with this potent mix of magnesium, herbs and passion flower oil.
Fact: the product most likely to strip away good bacteria and stress out the skin is cleanser. So it makes sense to combine the probiotic lactobacillus with pink and green clays to gently lift gunk out of our pores.
Meditation, with its principles of controlled deep breathing and quiet contemplation, offers an antidote to stressful modern life. These wireless noise-cancelling headphones fit over your ear and allow you to focus on the Calm App with no outside distraction.