Welcome to the third installment of our Otto Wellness Series! In this ongoing series, we will introduce you to many beautifully bright women who share their personal experiences and knowledge in the fields of health and wellness. This month, we invited Caitlin Hix, a certified meditation instructor, to explain the mind-body connection when it comes to your skin health.
“I don’t really subscribe to New Year’s resolutions,” I found myself saying to my sister-in-law over a drink outside of my house. I had completely forgotten it was New Year’s Eve already—but the minute the words escaped my lips, I realized what a complete lie that was.
I love New Year’s resolutions—I’ve just been disguising them as New Years’ “intentions” instead. A rebrand, if you will.
The truth? I’m always challenging my own emotional growth, but I loathe the idea that the new year is your only opportunity to reset. There’s a lot of pressure around keeping the intentions you initially create, and oftentimes, the intentions are too lofty (and too rushed) in the first place. Over the years, the urgency of New Year’s resolutions has made my skin crawl. Literally. But I’ll get to that shortly…
Resolutions are generally associated with living your best life, but what does living your best life even mean? Is it optimal health? Traveling the world? More spa days? A better relationship with your partner? As a certified meditation instructor, wellness comes with the territory—but I’m constantly (and gently) reminding myself how I define my own wellness. Acts of self-care are certainly a part of the equation, but remembering to accept what is has become the biggest challenge to “living my best life.” Anger. Happiness. Confusion. Contentment. Sadness. Grief. Guilt. All of these emotions are essential. So, why the obsession with pushing them away?
Unfortunately, this pursuit of 24/7 happiness that the new year brings has only contributed to my heightened stress levels over the years (you, too?). Not to mention, stressing out about my stress has made my overall wellness even worse—especially my skin health.
When our bodies experience stress, a hormone called cortisol spikes. An occasional spike in cortisol is normal, but elevated cortisol for extended periods of time (what’s up, pandemic?) is less than ideal. Think: dry, thinning skin, collagen breakdown, hyperpigmentation, blackheads, whiteheads, and breakouts.
So, how do we help our bodies better cope with stress—ergo keeping our hormones balanced, cortisol levels stable, and inflammation in check?
For one, let’s get realistic about our New Year’s resolutions. Although setting goals is a motivating part of your life, achieving them (or not achieving them) doesn’t define you.
Second, don’t let the new year be the only time you check in on yourself. Your overall wellness—especially your emotional health—is worthy of your attention all year round. “Living your best life” means being present for all of it. The happiness. The anger. The sadness. Everything. Finding healthier ways to deal with these common and necessary emotions—rather than dismissing them—will ultimately help reduce your overall stress.
To do this, start by implementing a regular meditation practice. Not only does this help you check in on yourself throughout the year, it can also have profound effects on your skin health. Stress-release techniques are anti-inflammatory. Meditating can improve the quality of your skin barrier, smooth and plump the skin, and reduce rosacea and acne. Meditating can also improve your quality of sleep, which is imperative for healthy skin. It’s a win-win!
Thinking of adding “meditation practice” to your resolutions? Start slowly with a meditation session once a week, working your way up as it feels comfortable for you. Remember, the idea is to manage your stress, not overwhelm your schedule with yet another “to-do.”
Start with this simple, yet impactful meditation:
Preparation: Find a quiet place in the house. If you can, kindly tell anyone in your house to leave you be for 10 – 15 minutes and turn your phone on silent. You’re welcome to play some white noise in the background. That being said, don’t worry about extra noises or being interrupted. Embrace what is. From there, find a comfortable position, seated or lying down, and set a timer for 10 – 15 minutes.
- For the first 3 or 4 rounds of breath, simply notice spontaneous sensations that are present in your body. It could be warmth, coolness, tension, ease. There may be very little sensation at all. That’s okay, too.
- On the next 3 or 4 rounds of breath, notice how the breath is showing up for your today. Notice its pace, rhythm, texture.
- After that, spend 3 or 4 rounds of breath allowing your attention to land on any emotions present. No need to fix, change or analyze. Simply notice what’s here.
- As your mind wanders through your experience of emotions, there may be thoughts or images present. What thoughts or beliefs want to be seen?
- At the end of your meditation, let go into just being. Let everything be just as it is. Thoughts, sounds, breath coming and going.