If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s coming. It’s that pivotal moment when you look in the mirror and discover the first signs of aging: wrinkling, creasing, dryness and drooping. According to Amy Wechsler, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist, it’s mainly tension – not time – that’s causing the lines on your face. In fact, stress can add three to six years to the look of your skin, she says.
In her book The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful, Beautiful Skin, Wechsler discusses how reversing the physical signs of stress aging are possible by slowing down and focusing on you. Her nine-day renewal plan gradually introduces new focal points (like sleep habits and diet choices) that should be maintained throughout the remaining days and ideally for life.
Why nine days? “I wanted to mimic a week-long vacation, which is two weekends book-ending a week,” says Wechsler. “I think it resonates with most people when they come home from a week’s vacation, look in the mirror and they feel and look much better. I was trying to recreate that experience.” While you can start on any day of the week, she recommends Saturday for day one.
Day 1: Simplify
• Establish daily face-care habits
With loads of products on the market, it’s not always easy to know what’s right for your skin. Wechsler recommends sticking to the basics with a gentle cleanser, a moisturizer with sunscreen for the day and one without for the night and a gentle exfoliator.
• Begin a regular sleep schedule
Wechler notes that most people think of sleep as a luxury, not a necessity – something that you might want but don’t necessarily need. But this is not true, she says: we need eight hours of sleep ‘in order for the body to restore and heal.”
Day 2: Relax
• Book a massage, connect with friends and/or have sex
Surround yourself with people who put you at ease, Wechsler suggests. There’s nothing like a simple coffee break or an afternoon at the spa (or in the bedroom) to put things in perspective.
• Focus on daily breathing exercises
Take a few minutes to appreciate your breath and actually listen as you inhale and exhale. This can help keep cortisol (a.k.a. the “stress hormone”) levels in check.
Day 3: Go green
• Get out in nature and take in your surroundings
A brisk 20-minute walk in the sun (even when it’s chilly) will give you some much-needed vitamin D and boost circulation.
• Drink green tea
If you’re going to take up one habit this year, make it green tea. It not only hydrates like water, but it’s loaded with flavonoids (known for their antioxidant activity).
Day 4: Eat clean
• Choose nutrient-rich whole foods over processed
To keep blood sugar levels steady and skin happy, opt for whole grains and complex carbohydrates like brown rice, bulgur and whole wheat pasta, which are rich in fatty acids that have skin-smoothing properties.
Day 5: Make a move
• Get active by scheduling at least 30 minutes of exercise
Any activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe a little harder than you would sitting at your desk is a step in the right direction.
Day 6: Get social
• Plan a dinner with friends and family
It’s time to take a trip down memory lane. Call up your friends and spend an evening sharing great stories that inspire and make you laugh.
Day 7: Fight stress
• Learn to meditate
“Meditation not only helps you better cope with stress, but it may also help you keep your brain young and functioning optimally,” says Wechsler.
Day 8: Sleep more
• Take a nap
There’s a reason Spaniards love their siestas. While you’re counting sheep, your body is busy at work lowering your risk of heart disease and repairing cells. You may even notice a happier disposition and an increase in stamina.
Day 9: Pause
• Reflect on your week and think ahead
Take a few moments to reward yourself for the changes you’ve made. Decide what elements had the most impact and consider ways to implement them into your daily routine.
“There’s something psychologically amazing about starting to do something for you, taking back some control and focusing on yourself,” says Wechsler. “It feels great, and it’s liberating.”
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