When it comes to the skin, stress manifests itself in many ways. For some, it’s acne. For others, it’s psoriasis or eczema flare-ups. And for many of us, stress manifests itself as hyperpigmentation — during the winter, our stress is at a high, which is one of the reasons your skin looks so dull and dark during this season.
Hyperpigmentation is a medical condition where patches of skin become darker in color than the surrounding area. The darkening occurs when an excess of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, forms deposits in the skin.
One of the main causes of hyperpigmentation is stress. When we experience stress, our bodies release a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone, which stimulates the growth of melanocytes.
Melanocytes are cells that produce pigment, and when they are stimulated by this hormone, they can produce more melanin than usual, resulting in hyperpigmentation.
In a recent study, scientists found that when mice were subjected to stress (such as being kept in a small cage or being restrained), they produced more adrenocorticotropic hormone and their skin became darker after being exposed to ultraviolet light. This suggests that stress may make our skin more sensitive to the sun's rays, which can cause hyperpigmentation.
However, this effect can be prevented by using a corticosteroid hormone inhibitor like Corticostatin which is a medication that can help to prevent this from happening by inhibiting the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone. Therefore, if you are feeling stressed, it is important to take steps to relax and protect your skin from the sun.
Hyperpigmentation can be a difficult condition to treat but by managing our stress levels and using sunscreen, we can help prevent it from occurring or worsening. Treatment options include topical creams and gels, laser therapy, and microdermabrasion.
If you are concerned about your hyperpigmentation, please consult with a dermatologist or other medical professional.
12 Ways To Manage Stress-Induced Hyperpigmentation
Here are 12 ways that can help you manage stress-induced hyperpigmentation:
1. Avoid triggers.
Identify what triggers your stress — if you know that certain situations or environments will trigger you — try to avoid them.
For example, if you get stressed out at work, take a break outside or in another room for a few minutes to clear your head. Or if you get stressed out when you are around large crowds, avoid going to places where there will be many people.
If you can’t avoid them, find ways to cope with them in a healthy way, some people find that exercise, journaling, or spending time in nature helps them deal with stress; just find what works for you.
2. But accept the events you can't control.
Some events are just out of our control and there is nothing we can do to change them. For example, if you lose your job, it is stressful, but there is nothing you can do about it.
In these cases, it is important to accept that we cannot control everything and let go of the stress that comes with trying to control the uncontrollable; some things are just out of our hands.
3. Get enough sleep.
Stress gets in the way of quality sleep for many American adults, the average adult sleeps less than seven hours a night which has caused 42 percent of adults to report that the quality of their sleep is poor and 43 percent to report that stress interferes with their sleep causing them to lie awake at night.
High levels of stress negatively impacts sleep by making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night which leads to sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation — triggers our body's stress response system — causing an elevation of stress hormones, cortisol, which in turn disrupts sleep even further; this creates a cycle of increased stress and sleep loss that can be difficult to break out of.
Most people need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Make sure to schedule in some time for relaxation before bed and create a dark, quiet environment in your bedroom to help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night so that you can feel rested in the morning.
Getting enough sleep gives your body time to recover from the day's activities and prepare for the next day.
4. Exercise regularly.
Exercise helps improve your mood by increasing the production of feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain called endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for the "runner's high" feeling and any type of aerobic activity can provide this benefit.
Exercise reduces the negative effects of stress by providing a way for your body to release tension and practice working through the effects of stress. This can also lead to positive changes in your body, such as improved cardiovascular, digestive, and immune function.
It also helps improve sleep quality and quantity, which can reduce stress levels, and help you cope better with stressful situations by improving your mental and physical resilience.
A moderate amount of exercise is the key to maintaining your mental health and well-being. Even just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, can help to reduce stress levels; if you are feeling stressed, exercise regularly.
5. Reduce your caffeine intake.
Caffeine consumption can lead to an increase in stress hormones, like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, which can in turn cause a fight-or-flight response. This response is beneficial in dangerous situations and can also help people focus on work deadlines but when this response is constantly triggered, it can lead to increased levels of stress.
Caffeine consumption can lead to an adrenaline boost followed by feelings of fatigue and depression. If more caffeine is consumed in an attempt to improve these symptoms, it can actually make them worse, leading to a cycle of restlessness and anxiety.
If you are struggling with chronic stress, it may be helpful to reduce your caffeine intake or eliminate it altogether.
Try replacing caffeinated beverages with herbal tea or water to help you stay hydrated and avoid the negative effects of caffeine on your stress levels.
6. Stop using nicotine products.
Research has shown that smoking increases stress and anxiety levels. Nicotine provides a temporary sense of relaxation, but it is quickly replaced by withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings — when you try to quit smoking — because it causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, making it difficult for your heart to relax.
Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and certain physical symptom from nicotine resemble the stress response, and may contribute to an increased desire to smoke.
If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to reduce your stress levels. There are many resources available to help you quit smoking, from nicotine replacement therapy to counseling to support groups.
7. Take breaks.
Extended periods of stress can have negative impacts on both your physical and mental health, so it is important to take breaks from time to time to give your brain and body a chance to reset, recover and cope with the stresses of daily life.
Taking breaks can help to improve your focus, increase your productivity and reduce or prevent your stress levels. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed and stressed, take a few minutes to step away from whatever is causing you stress and take some deep breaths to help you clear your mind.
Get up and stretch, take a walk outside, or try other relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation or progressive muscle relaxation.
Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed.
8. Take some time for yourself every day and relax.
In our busy lives, it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves and relax. We often put the needs of others before our own, but this can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, and resentment.
It is important to schedule some time each day, even if it's just a few minutes, to do something that you enjoy without any obligations to help you relax and recharge.
There are many different ways to relax, and what works for one person may not work for another; find what works best for you and to make relaxation a part of your daily routine.
Some people find that relaxation techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation can help reduce stress levels. Others find that listening to calming music, reading, taking a bath, going for a walk, or spending time in nature can help them relax.
Whatever works best for you, make sure to take some time each day to relax and de-stress; this is your time to recharge your batteries so that you can better handle stress and reduce your risk of developing stress-related health problems.
9. Create boundaries and learn to say no.
One of the main causes of stress is feeling overwhelmed by our obligations. We often take on more than we can handle, either because we feel like we have to or because we want to please others.
Creating boundaries and learning to say no can help reduce your stress levels by making sure that you are not taking on more than you can handle.
It is important to be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do, and set limits accordingly. If you find yourself getting stressed because you are taking on too much, it is ok to say no or ask for help.
Saying no can be difficult, but remember that we only have so much time and energy. If we commit to too many things, we won’t be able to give our best to each one.
Creating boundaries also helps protect your time and energy so that you can focus on what is truly important to you; which can help you feel more in control of your life and less stressed overall.
10. Manage your time wisely to avoid procrastination.
When we procrastinate, we often end up doing things at the last minute, which can lead to rushed and poorly done work and feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious and more stress as we try to catch up.
Time management to avoid procrastination is a key stress-reduction strategy, one way to do this is to create a schedule or to-do list for each day.
Break down your tasks into smaller, more manageable parts, and allocate a specific amount of time for each one to avoid feeling overwhelmed, and make it more likely that you will get things done on time.
Another way to avoid procrastination is to set deadlines for yourself, and to make sure that you stick to them. If you find yourself struggling to meet a deadline, ask for help or give yourself more time.
Procrastination can be a difficult habit to break, but by doing so you will be able to avoid this stress-inducing habit and reduce your overall stress levels.
11. Minimize electronic device use and screen time.
We are increasingly reliant on our electronic devices, but overexposure to blue light increases stress and anxiety levels because it suppresses melatonin — hormone that helps regulate mood, motivation, fear and sleep and reduces the production of cortisol.
If you find yourself constantly checking your electronic devices or feeling anxious when you're not able to use them, it might be helpful to take a break from screens for a while.
For instance, setting specific times when you will use your phone or only using it for certain tasks. Or leaving your phone at home or in another room when you're not using it.
If you can't completely take a break from screens, try to minimize your use as much as possible and make sure to take breaks often to reduce your stress levels and give you a much-needed break from the constant stimulus of technology.
12. Seek professional help.
If you find that you are struggling to cope and manage with stress on your own, seek professional help.
A therapist can help you to understand and manage your stress in a healthy way, and can provide you with tools and techniques to reduce your stress levels.
If you decide to seek therapy, make sure to find a therapist that you feel comfortable with and who you feel you can trust. If you're not sure where to start, you can ask your doctor for a referral or look for a therapist online.