Stress. We are constantly told it does us no good and that we should avoid it at all costs. Bad for our mental health, physical health, relationships, need I go on. Yet, each time we hear this, it just leaves us even more stressed than we were before! Which, in turn, leaves us with the hard truth…that stress is unavoidable!

Life is, and will always be, stressful. Whether it’s the stress of a new job, a first date, family dramas, running your own business or just the race to put the bins out on time! Stress will always be a part of our lives. So perhaps we have been given the wrong information. Perhaps we need to learn how to welcome stress and listen to the information our body tries to send us when it arrives. 

According to a 2021 review into the impact of stress on the human body, stress hits us in three phases. The first phase is our initial alarm and its accompanying adrenaline spike. That sudden wash of panic as I realise I need to drive somewhere I’ve not been before and have no idea where I might park! Then comes the second phase as your body fights with itself in a desperate attempt to handle the perceived threat. A sick feeling in my stomach, questioning a potential quick trip to the bathroom…! If stress is then left unchecked you move into the final phase. When your body feels it has exhausted all means of ‘protecting’ you from this perceived threat (with my experience parking in some parts of Cornwall I’d say the threat is pretty real!), you enter the “tiredness phase”. Having battled against the stress, your body no longer fights and this is where the larger problems arise. Chronic stress of this nature can impact each organ of the body and can even stimulate an infection. 

My experience with stress has always been complex - parking aside! Previously I would push through the first and second phase, ignoring the yelling and screaming my body was doing in an attempt to leap up and down and get my attention. I would instead internalise the stress, as many people do, and my body would just have to swallow. This meant I often found myself in that third “tiredness” phase, wreaking havoc on my immune system and ultimately leading to stress being my biggest psoriasis trigger. 

When I was ignoring my body, I would often not even be aware I had experienced stress. Which sounds a bit ridiculous on reflection. Something would happen and I would gloss over it, move on with my day and then wonder why my skin had suddenly gone mad! Keep ‘calm’ and carry on etc. But as I stopped to work my way back through the previous day or week’s events it would become clear that things had obviously impacted me more than I had allowed myself to realise. 

So what can we do to recognise our stress, address it and ultimately live happily alongside it?

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Firstly, I would encourage you to pay more attention to how your body is responding to your environment. Aside from the usual impact of drinking enough water, eating a balanced diet, exercising and so on, think about how your body behaves at your happiest. How do you look and feel when life seems at its best? Then, what small changes do you begin to notice as stress creeps in?

Once you can understand your body’s communication with you, you can learn to listen, spot the stressors and react to limit the negative effects. 

Then it’s just finding what levels your nervous system. What relaxes you? What centres you? What brings you back to your own equilibrium?

There are three main things that help to calm my mind, and lessen the impacts of stress on my psoriasis…

  • Yoga, breathwork, mediation and even just allowing myself five or ten “Hygge” minutes to sit down, light a candle or use aromatherapy products (highly recommend Scentered or Bloom Remedies for easy aromatherapy options) and cosy up for a moment or two enjoying the sensations

  • Spending time with the people who make me feel good and truly allow me to be myself (especially when this coincides with an indulgent treat!)

  • Getting out to walk in nature (especially with a few dogs in tow!) - I find a few deep breaths of sea air along the Cornish coast, as I march after a wayward Spaniel, can work wonders!

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Of course everyone will have their own tools to bring their bodies back into alignment and it can take trial and error to find what works best for you. So, with April being “Stress Awareness Month”, why not take some time to listen to your body and find out what it needs, and feel free to share what works for you in the comments to inspire the next person.

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