I’ll admit it. The last few years have been pretty stressful. My husband and I both run our own start up businesses and we have two kids under five. Enough said. I’ve tried lots of things to deal with it: Meditation. Massage. Epsom salt baths. Aromatherapy. Colonics... I’ve exercised (sporadically) and drank red wine (regularly), and I’ve spent a lot of time “workshopping” with my friends...
But here’s the rub. It never really goes away. And I don’t think it will any time soon. Maybe when the kids get older and I hire more people, but until then, I’ve realised that stress is just going to be a part of my daily life. My spiky, unshaven bedfellow. But things have to change. Instead of trying to kick him out every day, I’ve decided I’m going to snuggle up to my belligerent bed buddy and give him a great big cuddle.
Studies have actually shown that it’s not stress itself that’s the big problem when it comes to chronic health issues and disease. It’s the idea that stress is bad for you that’s making us sick. We know that perception leads to reality, but a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison really proves it. Researchers analysed interviews with people about their stress levels then compared that data to the public death records. Those that claimed they suffered from loads of stress in their lives and who were also aware of the health hazards of stress had a higher instance of premature death – (43% higher to be exact) while those who reported the same levels of stress but had no idea of its health implications had the lowest death rate in the group – even lower than those who reported not feeling stress in their lives.
There’s a great Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal about it, but in a nutshell, we need to embrace the positive effects of stress. Short term (not long-term, chronic) stress releases hormones that can cause stem cells to grow new neurons and improve performance. It can also improve learning, memory, give your immune system a boost and make you more social, when you reach out to friends to seek help (see my aforementioned ‘workshopping’).
Stress gives us courage, purpose and makes us care about stuff. It’s this concept – of the positive side of stress - that led Dermalogica to develop their latest product, Stress Positive Eye Lift. The treatment and mask in one comes in a nifty pen-like wand with a cooling metal massage applicator. You simply squeeze it gently as you apply it around the eye. You can either leave it on for 3-5 minutes as a mask or massage it in with upward strokes – which boosts microcirculation and lymphatic drainage, minimising puffiness and dark circles. If you’re keen to try it, the lovely folks at Dermalogica have offered Beauticate readers a 10% discount for the month of April when you purchase Stress Positive Eye Lift – simply enter BEAUTICATE10 to redeem the offer on checkout).*
With my newly de-puffed and refreshed eyes, I was really able to focus on my state of mind, and realise that in today’s uber-connected world, stress is an inevitable part of life. The trick is to find the upside and teach yourself to embrace the symptoms of stress.
Now I just remind myself that the quickening of my heart is a sign that my glutamine is hard at work, this neurotransmitter is proven to increase my memory which can sharpen my performance. And God knows I need all the help I can get with my memory.
When I’m feeling anxious about getting something done, it’s a sign that cortisol is being released through my body and, according to a study by the University of Maine, it’s this hormone that helps my brain connect with my gut instinct and make the right decisions.
Sure, it’s intense and not that pleasant when you’re going through it. I’m sure stress is responsible for my smattering of grey hairs and the crows feet I’m noticing every morning when I wake up, but, hey, it’s here to stay, so I may as well embrace it.
So, if you want to make peace with it all, do like me and say to your stress, “You stink a bit and you need to shave, but welcome to my bed. Let’s get it on.”
And if in doubt, find a bloody good eye cream!