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Stress relief – symptoms, signs, and management techniques

Ever feel overwhelmed with life, work, or responsibilities? You may be experiencing stress, but you’re not alone. Around three-quarters of people have felt so stressed out they have felt unable to cope. Rest assured, there are many stress relief options available.

But what is the science behind stress? How does it affect our body and skin, and what can you do when it comes to stress management?

What is stress? Symptoms and signs

Stress is the body’s response to feeling under pressure or in danger. When this happens, your body releases hormones that prepare it to respond to potentially threatening situations. This is what’s known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. When this kicks in, the following things typically occur:

  • The stress hormone cortisol floods your body.
  • Your immune system is primed to fight invaders.
  • Non-essential processes are slowed or stopped completely.

Stress symptoms

Some common signs of stress include:

  • Muscle tension or pain.
  • Headaches or dizziness.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Problems concentrating.
  • Binge eating.
  • Struggling to sleep.
  • Oily skin and acne.

What causes it – and what are the effects of stress on the body?

Causes of stress

Stress is your body preparing to run from danger. This is all perfectly normal and has kept humans and animals safe for millennia. But, thankfully, gone are the days where we experience the temporary heightened stress of escaping a lion like our ancestors, with many people today experiencing long-term stress symptoms which are actually harder to cope with.

Feeling overwhelmed by work, social commitments, or emotional challenges keep your body in a permanent fight or flight, therefore leading to long-term stress and health issues.

The effects of stress on the body

So how does this affect your body? Your blood pressure can increase, fat can build around your organs adding inches to your waist, and you may find it harder to sleep – as your immune system weakens, you may become more susceptible to bugs and illnesses too.

The effects of stress on the skin

Perhaps one of the most significant signs of stress is the toll it takes on your skin. With your body busy fending off perceived dangers, the repair of skin cells and formation of new ones is dialled back.

Skin-related stress symptoms include:

Dry complexion

With fewer new cells being made, your skin builds a layer of dead cells at the surface. More cortisol also means less collagen, essential for healthy skin.


Stress hormones release histamine, which can cause your skin to become red and itchy. Stress renders blood vessels more fragile and prone to bursting, which contributes further to this redness.


Stress can lead to higher levels of the brown pigment, melanin in your skin. This is related to the inflammatory hormones stress sends soaring through your body, such as IL -1 alpha.


Stress releases cortisol, which results in more oil released by your sebaceous glands. The excess oil can trigger acne flare-ups or exaggerate existing breakouts. Acne will likely appear where your skin is most oily.

Stress relief and management techniques

Stress is no good for your mind, body, or skin. Thankfully, there are many options for stress relief that can make dealing with stress that little bit easier.

Breathing is one of the most important stress management techniques. Deep breathing can flip a switch that takes you away from fight or flight to a more calming, restful state.

Why breathing matters

Breathing keeps us alive. But beyond the rising in our chest, it’s doing so much more. By filling your lungs with oxygen, carbon dioxide is flushed out. It’s also central to keeping the lymphatic system running as it moves waste and nutrients around your body.

Try this technique

  1. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe deeply.
  4. Purse your lips when breathing out as if you were blowing out a candle.
  5. Try to focus solely on the breath – in/out.
  6. Repeat at least three times.

Sleep better

Not being able to sleep is one of the most common stress symptoms. But it can also make coping with stress much harder. For example, if you can’t sleep for worrying, you may find it harder to manage at work, further exacerbating your stress levels.

Why sleep matters

Sleep is essential for your body and mind to function. When you’re sleeping properly, your cells repair themselves and your hormones are regulated. Also, damage that your skin has sustained during the day, for example from UV rays, is repaired and wounds heal faster.

Try these tips for better sleep

  • Establish a routine – set yourself a regular bedtime and waking time and try to stick with it.
  • Create a relaxing vibe – turn off the TV after 10pm, read a book, and inhale sleepy essential oils like lavender via a diffuser or a spray.
  • Put down the phone – make the bedroom a no-scrolling zone. Leave your phone out of reach.
  • Eat early – eat dinner at least a couple of hours before bedtime. Digesting food keeps the body awake.

Skin treatments

Stress can leave its mark on your skin. Stress symptoms can trigger wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and dryness. So, what can you do about it from a beauty perspective?

  • Mesotherapy: Loose skin can be rejuvenated with this treatment that breathes new life into the skin with vitamins, hormones, and plant extracts.
  • Microneedling: If your skin is feeling dry and loose a microneedling derma roller treatment can help make it smooth and firm once again.
  • Chemical peels: This treatment repairs your skin by intentionally damaging old skin cells that then encourages your body to replace them with new healthy ones.


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