Unfortunately, you are not the only one who is accompanied by the feeling that life is more stressful. The Global Report on Mental Health, released by the World Health Organization (WHO), points out that 374 million people around the world began to live with anxiety disorders after the pandemic, a growth of 26% in just one year. In Brazil, a study coordinated by Vitor Crestani Calegaro, a psychiatrist and professor at the Department of Neuropsychiatry at the Federal University of Santa Maria, in Rio Grande do Sul, followed the mental state of volunteers in the first months of the health crisis. Shortly after the isolation measures were announced, 65% of them reported worsening mental health. “It was a moment of adaptation, uncertainty and fear, which will always lead to peaks of stress”, says the specialist. “In addition to the emotional, the body is also shaken by the state of tension. The growth in the production of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress, causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, weight gain and sleep disturbance, among other things”, adds Vitor.
The truth is that for a long time there has been a growing number of people who feel overwhelmed with obligations, the pressures of the world and even the accelerated speed typical of a technological life. The harrowing scenario has led to the emergence of a multidisciplinary industry focused on preventing and harming the effects of anxiety and stress. According to a report by Quince Market Insights, the stress management market was worth over $18 million in 2020 and is expected to grow by approximately 3.5% per year through 2030.
This includes apps designed to help with meditation and breathing exercises, alternative treatments in areas such as acupuncture, relaxing food supplements, and even modern gadgets. An example is the devices that provide biofeedback, that is, they act as a tool for monitoring heart rate, muscle tension and breathing rhythm. The Orb, from Israeli startup Reflect Innovation, is shaped like a ball and, when you hold it in your hands, it measures this data. Other devices go further, offering beneficial recommendations. Zen, by French company Morphée, proposes meditations, and the Dutch app Alphabeats suggests songs to help with varied mental conditions. None of them are available in Brazil yet. The Muse 2, sold here for around R$3,600, scans brain waves and monitors various activities to check for a drop in stress hormones.
The cosmetics and personal care sector has also expanded its holistic approach, adding to the products relaxing components taken from aromachology, such as lavender essential oil and even, in a very new movement and with few supporting studies, melatonin, to help with sleep disorders. .
A survey conducted by Euromonitor in 2020 found that for 63% of respondents mental health was the top priority at the moment and that 48% agreed that personal care and beauty products could help improve mental health and self-esteem. Another 46% said they were looking for ingredients that would help them relax and sleep better. Although they contribute positively, it is necessary to remember that these alternatives do not work as a treatment for mental health problems. “Any tool capable of promoting well-being and life balance is valid, but it is necessary to understand that these artifices act as a complement, a palliative aid. When a more serious condition is installed, it is essential to seek specialized help and medical diagnosis”, emphasizes psychiatrist Filipe Batista, from São Paulo.
The consequences of the stressful routine can also be reflected on the skin in conditions known as psychodermatoses, which can manifest in different ways: dermatitis, acne, rosacea, sensitive skin syndrome, focal hair loss (alopecia areata) and even vitiligo. “Some diseases have genetic factors, but the trigger is emotional”, says dermatologist Lilia Guadanhim, from São Paulo.
Administrator Olivia Swain, 31, took a long time to understand the connection between cause and symptom. Four years ago, she started to feel itchy scalp and saw that it had scaling in the area. “I thought it was dandruff and I didn’t pay much attention, but during the pandemic the picture got more intense. When I went to see a doctor, he suspected an allergy to the cosmetics I was using.” The first order was to exchange everything for products designed for newborns, but still the symptoms persisted. Then came the suspicion that Olivia’s injuries were related to her emotional state. Earlier this year, another dermatologist nailed the diagnosis of psoriasis. “It gets much worse in times of stress and even wounds appear. I use a spray, a gel and an ointment on the spot. The specialist also prescribed sunbathing and asked me to keep up with physical activities and therapy, my biggest escapes”, she says. Presented as a tool to combat anxiety, essential oils were also allies in the search for calmer days.
Not only in diseases is stress a potent agent, but also in the aging process. “The exposome concept discusses ways that the environment we live in affects our skin. The best-known and main mechanism in the multisensory aging cascade is solar radiation. But stress can increase the formation of free radicals which, in turn, will increase collagen degradation and decrease collagen production. Some habits from stressful routines, such as sleep deprivation, accelerate this process”, explains Lilia, who believes that the beauty routine may just be the beginning of a much greater path of self-care. “It is important that this moment is pleasant, with sensory and aroma stimuli, because it represents the beginning of a spiral of looking more at yourself and your self-esteem”, she adds. Relaxing also needs to be on your to-do list.
See below a selection of products from the stress care market to use as an ally in the care of your physical and mental health
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