As the mind-skin connection gains credence, beauty companies have seized on the new marketing opportunity, launching serums and balms that they say cater specifically to the effects of stress on the skin. Without any independent clinical trials to back up these product claims, dermatologists are skeptical about how effective they might be. But doctors do advocate paying extra attention to your skin during tumultuous times. "If you already use acne products, increase the frequency of application when you're entering a stressful period," says Fried. And because skin's immunity is impaired when you're under stress, making you more susceptible to sun damage, he says, it's even more important to apply (and reapply) sunscreen. A bonus: Taking special care with your daily beauty regimen may help soothe your spirits as well as your skin. Fried conducted a study in which 32 women used an alpha hydroxy acid lotion on their faces for 12 weeks. Their skin felt smoother in the end, but the participants also reported feeling happier in general. "As soon as these women saw an improvement in their skin, it fostered a wider-reaching sense of optimism," says Richard Fried, MD, PhD, a dermatologist and clinical psychologist. "Their feelings of stress or depression also decreased because they felt more in control—over their skin, their bodies, their world." –Jenny Bailly
Keep Reading: How stress impacts your skin
Is All Stress Bad?
Short-term stress triggers the production of protective chemicals and increases activity in immune cells that boost the body's defenses; think of it as having your own personal repair crew. "A burst of stress quickly mobilizes this 'crew' to damaged areas where they are likely to be needed," explains Firdaus Dhabhar, PhD, director of research at the Stanford University Center on Stress and Health. As a result, your brain and body get a boost. A quick surge of stress can stave off disease: Studies suggest that it strengthens the immune system, makes vaccinations more effective, and may even protect against certain types of cancer. Small amounts of stress hormones can also sharpen your memory. In 2009 University at Buffalo researchers found that when rats were forced to swim—an activity that stresses them out—they remembered their way through mazes far better than rats that chilled out instead. The key, of course, is balance. Too little stress and you're bored and unmotivated; too much and you become not just cranky but sick. "It's important to pay attention to your stress thermometer," and to stay below the boiling point, explains life coach Ruth Klein, author of The De-Stress Diva's Guide to Life. –Melinda Wenner Moyer
Keep Reading: The upside of stress
Is It Better to Fight Anxiety or Is It Okay to Be Nervous?
Accept that you're having an anxiety moment—trying to squelch or deny it will only make it worse—and just focus on what's in front of you, says David Barlow, PhD, founder of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. If you're at an interview, meeting or party, listen intently to what the other person is saying. Make eye contact. When it's your turn to speak, be conscious of every word you say. If you're at your desk, respond to overdue e-mails or tackle the pile in your in-box. Whatever you're doing, take a few deep breaths to help let the anxious thoughts and feelings float on by. –Naomi Barr
Keep Reading: 5 ways to calm the jitters
How Do I Stop Focusing on the Clock?
The elimination of time from your consciousness is the elimination of ego. It is the only true spiritual practice. Here are three exercises to help you move in this direction:
- Step out of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life. Become friendly toward the present moment. Make it your practice to withdraw attention from past and future whenever they are not needed.
- Be present as the watcher of your mind—of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react.
- Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Just look, don't interpret. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Be aware of the space that allows everything to be. Listen to the sounds; don't judge them. Listen to the silence beneath the sounds. Touch something—anything—and feel and acknowledge its Being. Allow the "isness" of all things. Move deeply into the Now. –Eckhart Tolle