Part of the Murad philosophy of acne treatment is to incorporate managing external factors. It's not just about acne treatment skin care products, it's also about managing stress and internal health.
It's 1:20 pm and Karen, a long-time client is late, yet again, for her 1:00 treatment. She rushes in, drops her things and collapses in your chair saying, "It's been a crazy day, please help me relax." You guide her through a few deep breaths, when her cell phone rings. She turns it off. You begin again. While her time is cut short, you do your best to provide excellent service. When her mask is on you reach for your Blackberry to check in with your son's teacher. His report card is being emailed to you. You open it, gasp at the grades and think - how can he get into college with these grades? Your heartbeat accelerates. You are distracted. All you can think about is finishing with your client so you can call the school. In the meantime, a note from the receptionist slides under your door alerting you that the computer system has gone down and the remaining appointments for the week have been deleted - PLEASE COME TO THE FRONT DESK AFTER YOU ARE FINISHED...
If you can relate to this scene, you are experiencing a new type of stress which I have coined, "Cultural Stress." Cultural stress is pervasive stress and it thrives in today's world. The word stress as it relates to emotions became part of our vocabulary in the 1950's. It originated with the onset of the Cold War. During this time, we had a fear of atom bombs so we built bomb shelters; but as a society, we could not say we were afraid, therefore we called it "stress."
In the years since then, stress has evolved. Cultural stress started infiltrating our lives 20 years ago, as we became more technologically savvy and prosperous. And it doesn't affect only adults - cultural stress starts young and is initiated by parents. New parents are often anxious about getting their child into the best preschool. In fact, it's common for unborn children to be placed on a preschool wait list. The next focus is on ensuring that the child is enrolled in all the right extra-curricular activities-from preschool through high school. This cycle puts pressure on children to excel at a very young age, while placing a burden on the parents to make more money to pay for the education and extra-curricular activities.
This scenario coupled with our society's increasing affluence has a far-reaching domino effect. In order to make more money to pay for all the activities we are involved in, we are working longer hours. According to a U.S. government report, Americans now put in more hours on the job -an average of 47 hours per week - than workers in any other industrial nation.
The more money we make, the more things we buy and this phenomenon extends well beyond possessions. As we have become a more informed society, we are more aware of the endless possibilities available to us in the form of clubs, lifestyles, diets and leisure activities, to name just a few. All of this has put a great strain on our health and well-being, especially since the vast majority of us are barely keeping up.
As a result of this pursuit to stay ahead, people are experiencing extreme levels of on the-job stress. According to the federal government's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 40% of workers find their jobs stressful, and 75% of people surveyed believe their jobs are more stressful now than a generation ago.
Our busy, on-the-go lives have created yet another problem. We have no time to cook at home, and so we have grown accustomed to eating out. Those who eat in restaurants are faced with the stress of choosing a restaurant and making a reservation or sometimes waiting an hour or more for a table. Others become reliant on unhealthy fast-food meals, as a matter of fact The American College of Nutrition reported that 46% of expenditure on food items was spent on unhealthy fast food. In either case, we are consuming more processed foods than ever, and eating foods high in sugar and saturated fats. This can cause glycation, making us more susceptible to diabetes. Refined foods also contribute to poor brain function and depression, and we often combat this with caffeine to stay awake and prescription sleep aids to help us sleep. Our national sleep deficit has resulted in an astounding 42 million prescriptions in sleep aids in 2005, and over $9.2 billion in retail coffee sales.
To help maintain mental and physical health, we need to eat complex carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits and vegetables -and good fats, especially Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These not only encourage water to be attracted to the cells, but are also a component of the cell membrane. In fact, recent studies have shown that Omega 3's in our food may help decrease depression -a leading mental health disorder that has been linked to the constant and pervasive stress in our lives.
Cultural stress and your clients' skin
As we who work with the skin know, all these conditions are reflected in the way the skin looks and feels.
How does cultural stress affect your skin? First of all, any kind of stress causes a tremendous amount of nervous system activity. It can cause an outpouring of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress-related hormones. In recent years, I have observed an increase in rosacea and adult acne, which I believe are directly related to an increase in cultural stress. When you are stressed, researchers believe that the increase in certain hormones known to worsen acne, are released.
Another skin condition that I believe may be attributed to cultural stress is an increase in facial hair among adult women. Hormonal shifts and the outpouring of androgens when you are stressed can cause you to lose hair, and it can also cause hair to suddenly appear in places where it didn't previously exist.
The good news is we can counteract cultural stress and improve our health both physically and emotionally with the "Water Principle®." Cultural stress contributes to damaged cell walls which in turn, allows the precious water that keeps them functioning to escape. The water loss has a myriad of effects. It causes our cells and connective tissue to break down, which prevents our heart, lungs, brain and other organs from functioning at optimal levels - all of which become apparent when you look at the skin.
We can encourage more water in the cells and reduce cultural stress by addressing these 3 areas, and best of all - you can teach these simple steps to your own clients:
- Topical Care
As the largest organ of the body, the skin is extremely responsive to topically applied products. By using the appropriate skincare regimen and professional spa treatments, you can address skincare concerns ranging from acne to wrinkles, while also preventing future damage.
- Internal Care
With topical skincare, we address approximately 20% of the skin, the epidermis. The remaining 80%, the dermis, responds by feeding the skin from the inside. Encourage your clients to eat a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables and healthy fats such as those found in raw nuts and olive oil to promote healthy, hydrated cells. Recommend a dietary supplement to provide the body with a constant supply of essential nutrients.
- Emotional Care
Maintain connections with others, discover a passion such as painting or dancing. Reducing isolation promotes a healthy sense of self. In your treatment room, you are providing one of the most powerful tools for emotional care, the healing power of touch. Research from the renowned Touch Research Institute shows that it's as beneficial to touch as it is to be touched. Massage is shown to increase weight gain in premature infants, alleviate depression, and positively alter the immune system.
Cultural stress, whether caused by fear, overwork or too many options causing conflict in decision making, ultimately leads to isolation. I believe isolation to be one of the most prominent diseases in today's world. Studies have shown that to reduce isolation, people need to have regular physical and social contact which reduces cultural stress, leading to happier, healthier lives.
You, as an esthetician are a healthcare provider. You are in a unique position to help your clients reduce the symptoms that come from cultural stress and achieve a healthier state of well-being. According to the International Spa Association, the spa lifestyle has become the fourth largest leisure industry in the United States, evidence that more people are turning to spas to relieve stress and promote overall health.
It's important to understand cultural stress and its pervasiveness. Keeping this concept in mind is a necessary step in creating a spa atmosphere that is completely free from the factors that can contribute to cultural stress, including cell phones, PDA's, televisions and loud music. The spa environment should be focused on creating the optimum healing environment.
Also, we want to simplify the remedies we prescribed to clients. Often times, we get so caught up in the solutions to our client's problems that we can actually overwhelm them and make the problems worse. If we keep the message simple and focus on the client's main issue of concern, be it sun damage, acne, muscle tension, or anything else, the treatment becomes much more palatable and the client is more likely to embrace and benefit from it.
Another simple way to help ease the weight of cultural stress is to make our clients aware of the problem. Most people are feeling this tension without even knowing what it is. Once our clients are aware of its existence they can begin to take steps to combat the problem and become more healthy, balanced and relaxed.
Cultural stress is a part of life. It's something that affects all of us, but it doesn't have to overtake our life. While your clients may initially come to you with a skin condition, they ultimately come back to you because you do more than just care for their skin. By helping your clients develop tools to cope with the cultural stress in their life, you will be giving them a benefit that they will see on their skin — a benefit they will also feel physically, internally and emotionally.
Tips for reducing cultural stress
- Practitioner Heal Thyself
The first step in reducing cultural stress is trying to determine what gets you worked up. Identify in yourself the biggest causes of cultural stress and then develop a plan of action to reduce the impact it has on your daily life.
- Practice being mindful
Take some time each day to meditate or be quiet, and enjoy the simple rhythms of life.
- Use 5-cent psychology on yourself
Most of us have cell phones. If you are stuck in traffic and late for an appointment, make a call and then accept the fact that you can't control the situation. One thing you can control is how you react to these situations. Try to make the best of it, as I always say "why have a bad day when you can have a good day."
- Exercise Regularly
Go for a walk, do yoga or take an exercise class. Being physically active, even for just a few minutes can make a difference in the way you feel.
- Nourish your body for optimum health
Make it a habit to avoid the Standard America Diet. Get foods that encourage and increase the water content in your body — a diet full of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, good fats and proteins. Take a nutritional supplement to fill the nutritional gaps in your diet. And remember the "Water Principle®".
- Get a good night's sleep
Americans sleep less than people in any industrialized country in the world. You need seven to nine hours of sleep every night to fully restore the body. Don't lose sleep, find the time to recharge your body at night so you have the energy to face the challenges that come up every day.
- Find a hobby
It forces you to take time out for yourself and do something enjoyable, while providing time for you to reflect.
The goal should be to reduce cultural stress and while enjoying the simple pleasures of life. As the great English poet William Wordsworth wrote:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in nature that is ours….
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