Stressed Out? So is Your Skin. 3 Exercises to Clear your Head and Calm your Complexion.

If you’re stressed out, your skin will show it. These calming exercises can help get you back on the path to better, brighter skin.

Woman cradling her legs on the floor in pink room

We all know that stress = not good. It can make us moody and cause us to snap at loved ones. It can rob us of our ability to focus as our minds race frantically through never-ending thought cycles. It can make us feel crazy.

But, that’s not all. 


Stress, especially the chronic kind, can have physical side effects. The American Psychological Association has linked stress (the most common culprit being job-related stress) to musculoskeletal pain in the lower back and shoulders. This leads to chronic headaches and migraines. More serious, life-threatening conditions like hypertension, heart attack, and stroke can result from long-term stress. 


It’s not just your head, heart, and mental health that suffer. Your skin also pays the price. Let’s say you’re cramming for a big exam and feeling totally unprepared, or you’ve got a major presentation coming up at work…well, we all know what a spontaneous breakout can do to your confidence levels, right? 

Young woman with nose ring in black and white

There’s actually a whole field of dermatology dedicated to studying the link between stress and your skin. Around 2010, the term psychodermatology began to gain traction. Here’s what it means, according to a 2011 article published by the Psychiatric Times:

“Psychodermatology is a relatively new discipline in psychosomatic medicine. It is the interaction between mind and skin. The two disciplines are interconnected at the embryonal level through ectoderm. There is a complex interplay between skin and the neuroendocrine and immune systems. Skin responds to both endogenous and exogenous stimuli; it senses and integrates environmental cues and transmits intrinsic conditions to the outside world.”

So, what does this really mean? Let’s unpack the scientific jargon. When your body experiences stress, your sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones. One of these hormones is cortisol. As adrenaline courses through your body and cortisol levels rise, your skin glands start increasing oil production. 

These high levels of hormones pumping through your body can start to cause inflammation. If you’ve been paying attention in class, then you already know that inflammation can lead to some rather unpleasant skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. Over time, these conditions lead to a weakened, less resilient skin barrier.


Woman on a walk

We live in a world that’s busy, loud, and full of distractions, most of which don’t have a positive effect on our physical or mental health. So the best thing to do if you need to find a little bit of peace is to find ways to remove or cut out the sensory overload. 

Here are 3, science-backed methods for relieving stress, courtesy of Harvard Health Publishing:

  • Move Your Body: Stress causes our muscles to tense up, and movement helps relieve that tension. You can move anywhere- simple stretches from the comfort of your desk chair can make a big difference. Take a brisk walk, or try jogging if you’re experiencing an especially stressful day. The more any movement gets your heart rate going, the better your body is at “burning off” the stress hormones that have accumulated. 
  • Laugh it Off: According to Dr. William Frye, you can think of laughter as “internal jogging”. Sounds fun(ny), right? Laughter naturally reduces cortisol levels and increases endorphins, AKA “feel-good chemicals. If you can’t start laughing on demand, then try and think about the last time you laughed uncontrollably with a friend. What about the last time you almost peed yourself laughing so hard? If nothing comes to mind, there are always funny cat videos…that’s where you’ll find us!  
  • Practice Mindfulness: The word “mindfulness” gets thrown around a lot, and it can seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity. So, how could it possibly work to relieve stress? Being mindful breaks the cycle of stressful thoughts. It shifts your focus from the thing you’re worrying about and brings you back to center. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, take a pause. Close your eyes and think about the temperature of the coffee cup in your hands or how the fabric of your clothes feels against your skin. Stay in that thought for a few minutes, until you feel the tension in your body starts to release. 
Woman with cup of coffee

You probably have a lot of morning habits. You get dressed, make coffee or tea, and eat breakfast. What if you woke up 15 minutes earlier and made movement, laughter, or mindfulness a part of your daily routine, too? What if you dedicated the last 10 minutes of your lunch break to whichever of the 3 destressing exercises felt most appropriate at that moment? 

These simple exercises deserve some dedicated time, not just for their potential skin benefits, but also because they’ll make you a more relaxed person. A relaxed person is a physically healthy and mentally resilient person. Knowing how to stay calm in an often chaotic world will do wonders for your long-term health. And that glowing skin, well, that’s a pretty nice perk!