I recently heard Alessia Cara perform Scars to Your Beautiful at BottleRock Napa Valley. “No better you than the you that you are.” I found myself fighting back the tears in awe of how somebody so young could be so profoundly wise.
Ms. Cara could never have imagined how much more relevant her message would become in the volatile 2020’s when the pressure to live one’s publicity reel on social media is compounded by everything in life feeling out of control.
All stressed out and nowhere to go
When we set the bar high with self-imposed expectations, frustration, anxiety and exhaustion are likely to follow. While stress can be healthy and is necessary for performance and responding to threat, feeling powerless and without control is bad for our mental health and our brain chemistry. That’s because the same hormonal cascades that are triggered by our brains for survival when there is clear and present danger can also be triggered by the negative chatter in our heads. That can create a constant drip of inflammatory stress that we now know can accelerate the aging of cells and chip away at health and appearance.
Radiance over Perfection
Mother Nature does not expect us to conform to unrealistic, unhealthy standards of beauty. But since when have we listened to our mother? It’s very possible that the pressure we put on ourselves to look better may actually be causing us to look older.
We see it in the mirror. Stress really can dim our glow. But only if we let it.
We can’t control the stress that occurs in our day to day lives; we can control how we respond to it. Neuroscientists and performance coaches alike are suggesting it’s time we learn to lower the bar, letting go of big hairy goals and self-imposed expectations and instead setting intention for how we want to show up in the world.
By identifying small ways to take control and move toward intention, we set ourselves up for the little successes that cumulate over time.
If you’re experiencing social appearance anxiety, an overwhelming fear that you will be negatively evaluated because of your appearance, please consider seeking the support of a physician or a therapist.
But if you’re just ready to take on a healthier, more holistic approach to beauty and wellbeing, consider starting with a 21 / 90 approach to habit-stacking small changes into your daily routine.
Step one might be starting a journal and committing to incorporating some brain health practices into your daily skincare regimen. That’s the idea behind habit stacking – adding something new and beneficial to something you’re already doing as a matter of habit.
For instance, if you want to start incorporating mindfulness practices into your life, setting a goal to meditate for 45 minutes a day can be a recipe for failure. On the other hand, meditating only once a week is unlikely to lead to a new healthy habit. However, by setting an intention to incorporate a couple minutes of breath exercises while you’re allowing a natural face cleanser mask to set, or bringing to mind 3 good things as a gratitude practice during a daily turmeric tea break, you set yourself up for some small wins. Commit to your intentional practice for 21 days so it will start to become a habit that your brain craves. Then continue for 90 days to see that the little things can make you look and feel a little better. Reinvesting in your intention is easiest when you experience and recognize results.
Have you noticed that journaling is a growing trend these days? That’s because when words flow from your mind, through your pen and onto your paper, they become more real than just reading them on a screen. Journaling is the way to connect more deeply with your intention and feel that soul-nourishing sense of control. Many are surprised that taking a few extra minutes to write in a journal leads to greater clarity over what’s really important and clears the way for a more productive day.
The Skin – Body – Mind Connection
Beauty trends come and beauty trends go. But beautiful skin is never out of fashion. Throughout the ages and among all cultures, races and ethnicities, beautiful skin is a cherished beauty asset. It’s evolutionary – a radiant complexion is your biological advertisement of health. So if stress is dimming your glow, take a deep breath and set your intention to find the essential beauty that radiates from within.