Looking after ourselves is more than just eating well, exercising frequently, and using good quality skincare. Although this is important. Self-care is more than a bubble bath, a face mask, and reading a good book. Although they too are essential, and each makes for an effective way to unwind after a long day.
Studies show that since the pandemic, burnout rates have increased by 33% and depression rates have doubled.
These are shocking figures which demonstrate just how crucial it is that we start paying more attention to our mental health. It may be easier said than done but ignoring signs of burnout or mental health issues can have devastating effects in the long run.
Our minds are incredibly powerful. They have the ability to store memories, names, control our body and allow us to function on a daily basis, which is why it’s so important to check in with ourselves every now and again and adopt the same level of care for ourselves as we do for our friends and family members.
When was the last time you stopped to ask yourself: ‘Am I okay?’
Often, we become caught up in the busyness of modern life and between work, family responsibilities, social events, and domestic chores, we often forget to press pause. This, of course, means physically stopping to relax, but it also means stopping mentally to notice and address any issues that are bubbling beneath the surface.
The effect of chronic stress on the skin and immune system
The stress hormone cortisol is the cause of countless skin and health concerns.
Stress is the body’s natural response to a perceived threat. When we enter this fight or flight response, our sympathetic nervous system kicks into action, prompting the release of many hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare us to deal with a potential injury. Our heart rate accelerates, blood flow to the brain increases by up to 500 per cent and digestion slows down. This can cause inflammation throughout the body, leading to acne flare-ups and premature ageing. What’s more, the stress hormone cortisol is no friend to the skin – it can trigger the rapid breakdown of collagen and drive skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and eczema.
Burnout is the result of chronic stress – that is, stress built up over time – and it has also been linked to several severe health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. It can also have a significant impact on our performance leading to symptoms such as brain fog, anxiety, headaches, depression, and a loss of motivation.
The effects of stress on the mind, skin and body can be so damaging that I recommend stress management should form a crucial part of your daily routine, alongside any topical products that you apply.
We need to improve our understanding of the mind-body connection
I think one of the most significant issues is that in western culture, we don’t place enough emphasis on the mind-body connection. Society tells us that we can’t be tired or inefficient, so we push through, letting the exhaustion and stress mount up until it ultimately leads to burnout.
There was a lot of time to think about things outside of work in traditional cultures, but we’ve lost that – no wonder burnout cases are rising.
During lockdown, when I went back into the NHS, I realised the importance of taking a moment to stop and do something for myself at the end of a long day. For reducing stress, mindfulness exercises such as meditation, deep breathing and journaling address anxieties directly and manage them in the moment, rather than letting them mount up over time.
In addition to this, going for regular walks in the sunshine can be very beneficial. Research shows that being in nature for just twenty minutes a day can increase immunity, improve mood, and decrease stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol levels in the body.
My quest for a healthy mind is a balanced mixture of meditation, exercise, supplementation, staying in touch with nature and sustaining a nutritious diet.
Lighting a candle and practising mindfulness can do wonders for driving anxious thoughts away or letting your mind ease into personal time after work. The simple act of nourishing my body with these practices makes me feel happy, and after experiencing burnout five years ago myself, I understand just how important they are.