Fort Mill Times

Fit in Fort Mill - December 10, 2008

Terry Shaw is the owner of Carolina Pilates. Visit or call 548-8775.
Terry Shaw is the owner of Carolina Pilates. Visit or call 548-8775.

Yes, it's true; the holidays are quickly upon us and, of course, the stress that goes with holiday preparations. For years, stress has been linked to numerous health issues but did you know that one of the first places stress shows up is on your skin and it can affect all ages!

Whenever we feel anxious or overwhelmed, such as during the holiday season, there is a signal from the pituitary gland, which sends a chemical message to the adrenal glands. The adrenals then produce cortisol, a major stress hormone. Once cortisol is pumped into our system, it communicates with all of our organs and causes inflammation as a reaction to stress. Inflammation produces oxidants that damage a cell.Short-term inflammation helps fight off disease, but chronic inflammation severely harms the body and is linked to a wide variety of diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis and asthma. Acne, wrinkles, dryness and itchiness also appear with inflammation and they are telltale indicators of what's really going on inside.We often try to blame external influences such as chocolate, dust, even the weather, for the state of our skin. But the real cause of a so-called "bad skin day" is often stress. You can go out and run into a friend who asks what's going on as soon as he or she sees you. The flip side is that once your skin starts to mend, people notice immediately and tell you that you look great.Today, anti-aging treatments are flying off the shelves of pharmacies as well as high-end department stores. Women are buying these products at ever-younger ages - a sign that you're never too young to worry about the aging effects of stress.Even teenagers are reporting soaring stress levels - and it's showing up on their skin. A recent study found that teen acne flare-ups become 23 percent worse around exam time. This rise in breakouts isn't due to excess oil that clogs pores and causes acne. The culprit is inflammation.Our healthy habits are often the first thing to go when we get stressed. We may skip the gym, smoke, eat junk food, forgo our skin-care routines and withdraw from our family and friends.Learning to take control of the things that are truly under our control is a great help. Start by working on the small issues first and it will have a positive impact on your brain and help decrease stress hormones.

Find an ally:

a friend, relative, therapist or member of the clergy - and talk about what is going on in your life rather than isolating yourself.

Go against the grain: you may feel like skipping a workout or eating junk food, but doing what you can to counter these impulses pays off in the end.


walking for as little as 15 minutes a day helps raise your endorphins, the mood-boosting chemicals in your brain.

Zone out to help you "zone in" later:

find a healthy way to relax. It could be massage, yoga, pilates or meditation.


sleep is anti-inflammatory, a time of healing when cortisol levels are at their lowest. Getting enough will keep your best coping skills at hand.

Good diet:

Author Doug Gray suggests eating fruits and vegetables and taking Vemma nutritional supplement (see my webpage for more information) daily.

Throw out your magnifying mirror:

it only encourages you to critique and pick at your skin. Try a few simple lifestyle changes to keep your face looking good and enjoy the holidays!