2. Get active
The stress response preps your body to leap into action. But most of the time you need to stay calm. Exercise releases all the revved-up energy inside you so you actually can stay calm. Additionally, it boosts the activity of white blood cells, increasing levels of beta-endorphins, improving your mood and circulation, which is good for your skin. Beta-endorphins have immense anti-inflammatory benefits that fight your stress hormone cortisol.
If there is one magic bullet for enhancing the quality of your looks, and your life in general, it’s exercise. The science is well documented: exercise fights the onset of age-related disease, lifts your spirits and sense of well-being, increases your lung capacity so you can take in more oxygen, boost circulation to deliver nutrients to cells and skin, lowers inflammation, and, for many, is the ultimate stress reducer. That healthy glow you get after a great workout (rosy cheeks indicative of the increased circulation that is nourishing all of those facial cells and tissues) isn’t just for show.
3. Beat the foods that beat you
Stress makes most people hungry. When stress hits, cortisol tells our brains that we are hungry, so we seek out a meal. Unfortunately, cortisol’s message to the brain also says that we want to eat sugary, fatty foods—all of the wrong food for stopping the cycle. Rich, sugary foods don’t do much for us besides contribute to insulin swings, poor blood-sugar balance, as well as extra pounds and worse moods. What’s more, the usual culprits—ice cream, cookies, etc.—register in the brains reward center making us crave them even more.
The following two strategies will reduce the magnetic pull of these foods. One, eat lots of lean protein—this will give you more energy and fight hunger pangs, which can play games with your mood. Protein is key to mood stability, due to its effect on maintaining a healthy blood-sugar balance, which in turn keeps certain hormones like insulin in check. Two, write down the top five guilty treats you tend to reach for when you’re stressed. Then, don’t eliminate them entirely. However, when you do succumb, eat only half of what you normally would. (Or less: sometimes a bite or two will satisfy you.)
4. Focus on the good things
If you feel buoyant and upbeat, you’re far less likely to start clenching your jaw. Here’s an easy way to raise your happiness quotient at home, as first recommended by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., the scientist who inspired psychologists to investigate happiness and positive emotions.
Find a notebook or journal you particularly like. Every night, write down three things that went well that day and why. It also may help to keep a gratitude list—things for which you are truly grateful. The point is to focus on the positive—on the events, people and experiences that you appreciate and that bring you joy. The exercise may even inspire you to turn a negative into a positive just by reshaping your attitude.
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about what you’re doing wrong. It’s also very easy for the mind to exaggerate and distort the magnitude and significance of bad things that happen and the speed with which you need to remedy them.
Transforming negative thoughts takes practice. You can start by keeping a journal that records the good things that happen. It will shift the focus to what you’re doing right, and that can put a brake on the stressful, negative chatter that often goes on in your head.
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