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Stress and the Uglies

body stress

Every year before winter sets in, our bodies enter a new phase. Our biological clocks kick in as the days get shorter knowing the long winter is soon upon us. Our body systems start to slow down and we begin to store fat as a defense mechanism. This is part of the stress response that is part of our biological make-up.

Back in the day, cavemen, farmers, etc. suffered true stress in the winter. Food was scarce so their bodies would store extra fat reserves. They didn’t have indoor heating so they needed extra insulation to keep them warm. Today, our bodies are conditioned to do the same thing even though those risks aren’t usually there. Plus, the dry, cold air causes our bodies to dehydrate faster, our skin, hair and nails to dry out and our bodies to operate less smoothly – UNLESS we counteract it by being proactive.

We also don’t get outside as much in the winter especially in northern climates. That combined with fewer hours of sunlight means our body is producing less vitamin D, a crucial vitamin for wellness, energy and immunity. Today, we also have the everyday stresses of life PLUS the holidays! It’s no wonder our bodies go haywire and our looks tend to suffer this time of year. What a time of transition and stress!

Need more motivation to take steps to counteract stress this time of year? Stress causes the breakdown of collagen so skin looks less buoyant and plump. The stress chemicals can cause flare ups of acne, rosacea, psoriasis and other skin conditions. Stress chemicals cause the body to store fat. Stress weakens the immune system causing illness which is not attractive. Stress causes you to care less about your appearance and go out in public looking not-so-great.

sleepSo what can we do?

1. Up your water intake. Drink at least 8 cups of water or more per day. Adjust this as you notice differences in your body.

2. Increase your moisture levels in skin cream and hair products. Be sure to wash your face every night and use a moisturizing night cream. And don’t skip eye cream. The skin there is extra thin and sensitive and needs special protection. Be sure to moisturize your neck and chest and use any extra product on hour hands.

3. Get your Vitamin D. Most doctors now recommend 1000 I.U. of vitamin D daily, but many people take 5000 or even 10,000 I.U. daily. There is little risk in this because it’s a water soluble vitamin and any that your body doesn’t need will be flushed out naturally. Be sure to talk to your doctor to be sure it won’t interact with other medications or health conditions.

4. Wear sunscreen. Winter sun rays can be damaging too so don’t forget to use the SPF daily.

5. Take breaks. As holiday craziness ensues, be sure to build in time for rest and relaxation. That is the best gift you can give to yourself and others.

6. Get enough sleep. This is the time your skin and body can repair itself. And you know when you don’t get enough sleep, the bags and dark circles aren’t pretty.

Try some of these tips for a more beautiful you this holiday season and all winter long.