Perfect, a pimple right before my presentation. Did I take my birth control this morning? Shoot, I don’t think I can make it to yoga this week. Can I get time off to be in my BFF’s bridal party this summer? Ugh, these cramps are distracting me from work. Why did I agree to host a dinner party this weekend? Note to self: Stock up on heating pads. Dear Computer, please don’t freeze during my meeting!
Does this stress spiral sound familiar? Happy National Stress Awareness Month! Not that we need to be even more aware of all the stress we’re under in these tumultuous times. But it’s important to give ourselves gentle reminders of how to identify, manage, and alleviate the things in our life that lead us down the path of burnout.
And while stress, unfortunately, seems like a universal experience, it’s far from equal across genders. A 2016 study in The Journal of Brain & Behavior reported that women are twice as likely to suffer from severe stress and anxiety as men—a trend magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only are women disproportionately impacted by job losses and expected to re-enter the labor force at significantly lower rates than men, but women also shoulder increasing unpaid domestic responsibilities such as handling 29% more of the childcare per week, which can further strain our capacity for paid work. The stress gap is real.
According to a United Nations report, women do nearly three times as much unpaid domestic work, which is often overlooked even though it can be even more strenuous than paid work. Carrying a baby while running errands should be an Olympic sport! And this doesn’t even include emotional labor, which women are just socially expected to shoulder. We have to constantly manage how assertive we appear so we don’t seem “bossy” or “naggy” and we are expected to perform the same jobs while being paid ~22% less on average than men. No wonder we’re more prone to burnout.
Stress does what to women?
At best, being under pressure can push us to rise to the occasion and achieve beyond our expectations, aka eustress. Experiencing eustress can encourage us to face fears, solve problems, maximize opportunities, and is generally situation-specific and temporary. At worst, pressure can incapacitate us and cause or exacerbate health issues, aka distress. Distress is what we commonly think of when we think of stress, and is more recurrent or chronic which can impact our quality of life over time.
We’ve probably all experienced headaches or upset stomachs or disrupted sleep that we attributed to being overwhelmed with life, so let’s do a deeper dive on how stress can physically manifest in other ways we might not realize.
Skin - Apart from our faces expressing our emotions, our skin can tell a lot about what we’re facing in our lives: sweating can indicate exertion or nervousness, turning bright red shows that we’re embarrassed or angry, while it feels like every pimple we have seems to appear with every new worry.
Stress itself does not cause acne, but our bodies’ stress responses can create prime conditions for breakouts. For instance, our immune systems’ response to perceived threats is inflammation, which usually protects and heals our bodies, but can overreact under stress.
Additionally, our nervous systems release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, the latter of which causes increased oil production leading to clogged pores that acne thrives in. To make matters worse, picking at blemishes can be a coping mechanism that only prolongs the breakout.
That’s why we love a Miracle Patch. No matter the size, location, or time of day—there’s a Miracle Patch that prevents us from popping pimples while extracting the excess oil and pus directly from the site. And the Miracle Clear line puts the power in our hands (and on our face) to manage our skin’s oil levels on a daily basis.
Menstrual Cycle - Along with increasing oil production in your skin, cortisol also shifts your body into survival mode. It increases your heart rate and breathing rate while directing blood flow to your muscles. Cortisol also signals to the hypothalamus gland (the part in the brain that controls the hormone system) to stop producing hormones that initiate the menstrual cycle, thereby preventing pregnancy during times of threatened survival. It’s as if your body is saying, “Looks like you’re dealing with a lot. This is probably not a good time to grow a baby.”
With your hormonal cycle disrupted, you can be more susceptible to premenstrual symptoms like nausea, bloating, breast tenderness, and weight changes. Your periods can become more painful or irregular when anxious, with longer or shorter flows than normal. This can be especially concerning if the frequency is greater than every three months, as the estrogen buildup leads to a thicker uterine lining, which can lead to cancer in the future.
With a painful cycle, surrounding yourself with as much comfort as possible can make a world of difference. Our reusable period panties feel just like your everyday underwear so that time of the month can feel like any other day. And if you prefer pads or tampons, we only use ultra-plush organic cotton so you feel cozy no matter how heavy your flow is, and you never have to worry about cancer-causing chemicals commonly found in conventional products coming anywhere near your body.
It’s easier said than done, sure. But not that much harder to actually do, if you follow any of these steps. Free yourself of the societal expectation to prioritize everyone else’s needs and put you first! Here are just a few simple ways you can start reducing the presence of stress in your life and how to manage the stress you can’t avoid so you can stay physically and mentally healthy.
- Practice self-care. Rael and self-care are basically synonymous, so we cannot stress this enough. Self-care can be as basic as getting enough sleep, eating well, and staying active. Or you can get as extra as dissolving a Moisture Melt Snowball in Glow Chemistry serum and massaging it into your face to feel so fresh and dewy—the opposite of distressed—or wearing an XL heating patch on your back to melt the tension away.
- Meditate on it. Use a mindfulness app or try journaling techniques to process the stressors you face regularly. During this time, don’t just focus on the negative feelings—the crampy periods, the breakouts, the dread—but try to make connections to the source of the tension so you can break the cycle of rumination and start making an action plan to manage the stress, whether that looks like minimizing interactions with toxic acquaintances, outsourcing domestic chores, or switching jobs.
- Laugh it off. Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that mess with your cycle and skin, while increasing the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins. Spend time with the people you find funniest, follow meme accounts on social, binge watch your favorite comedies, have a game night with friends—no joke, even fake laughing can have the same benefits as genuine laughter.
- Seek counseling. It’s great to have friends we can vent to, but it’s not fair to unload our burdens onto them to the point where our stress overwhelms them. Therapists are trained to do that and help us process our stress so it overwhelms us less. And increasingly, barriers like having to make appointments and taking time to commute to a therapist’s office during work hours—which can add extra stress—are eliminated with the countless smartphone apps that have recently emerged to provide much more flexibility.
- Just say “no”. Try it. It feels great. Whenever someone asks something of you that you sincerely have no interest in apart from appeasing the other person, just say “no”. A neighbor asks for a ride to the airport all the way across town during rush hour. “No, I can’t” is a perfectly fine response! It’s called boundaries.
No stress if it takes some time to de-stress your life. It’s a process, not a race. With some practice integrating these steps into your regular routines, you’ll get better at anticipating everything life has to throw at you so you can face pressure confidently rather than being too overwhelmed to function. And as a bonus, you keep your hormones on a regular cycle so your skin and periods are a couple less things to worry about!