Our skin can be affected more by modern stressors, such as the grind of a career or social media pressures. We partnered with Murad and were inspired by Dr. Murad’s four pillars for wellness. Olivia Muenter, a writer, was asked to tell us how she changed her daily life to find more balance. You can read her story below.
My skin was pretty average for most of my 20s, which includes the majority of the time I lived in New York City. My skin was responsive to new products and, aside from the occasional facial (which is a perk of being a beauty editor), I kept my skin-care routine very relaxed. I didn’t stick to a particular routine and instead used whatever was in my office’s makeup bag. After three years living in the city, things changed for me when it came to my skin. My life has changed a lot.
After a few years of chasing promotions and working hard, I started to realize that I had no idea what my career goals actually were. Perhaps I hadn’t really been able to know. My long-term boyfriend and I shared our first apartment in Manhattan, despite neither of us liking the city. After adopting a puppy, she contracted parvovirus the very first day. My childhood friend died in a car accident a month later. Despite how difficult that year was, it was a surprise to me that the world continued spinning and that I was able to keep moving forward, despite all that. My skin was never more beautiful or healthier.
It seemed like it took only a few days for me to go from dealing with hormonal breakouts (one or two per month) and into waging a constant fight against painful cystic acne (a face filled with inflamed, clustered pimples). One pimple would disappear and another one would appear. Even though I was able to access every skin-care product available and a dermatologist who had won awards around the world, I could not find a solution that worked.
It’s obvious that my skin is a reflection my mental state. But it wasn’t so simple for me back then. My routine had not changed, I would tell myself, conveniently ignoring the anxiety that I felt pressing down on my chest like an ice cream ball. Despite not being able to see my mental health for what it was, there was one thing that had become suddenly clear to me: I didn’t want to be in New York City.
My boyfriend, who became my fiancee shortly afterwards, and I set out to make major changes in our daily lives. We moved to Philadelphia, which allowed us more space and was closer to our friends and family. I wanted to become a freelancer. Without ever having been to the house or the surrounding area, we signed a lease on an old row home. Although we took many chances and I wasn’t sure it would all go according to plan, I knew that we made the right decisions almost as soon we drove our full-sized U-Haul from Manhattan.
My skin had changed by the time I moved into our Philadelphia home. I stopped looking for the best products to combat my acne and decided to stick to simple products that were both effective and easy to use. Prior to this, I was focusing on the most expensive products that I could find at work. I now focus on ingredients that I know will work, such as salicylic acid. I simplified my routine to only the products that I enjoy using, like a thick, nightly moisturizer. I also stopped using skin-care steps that I felt I “had to” do, such as traditional acne cleansing products.
I took control of my career and built everything, from my daily schedule to my long-term plan. This made it easy for me to make as much time for work as for the things that I love most: writing fiction, journaling and exercise, as well as being outside and cooking from scratch.
I started going to the farmer’s market every week and trying out new healthy recipes. I started to grow my own herbs, and vegetables. Along with my work duties, I began tracking my water intake and adding reminders on my daily to-do lists. I was determined to try new classes, and I eventually bought a treadmill so that I could do at-home workouts. It was the first time I felt like I was taking the same effort into my own health as I did in the office. My entire self – as I was into my day job.
Although I still work hard, things have changed. I go to bed when I have to. I take breaks when I have to. I will accept projects that are inspiring, as well as those that pay the bills. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I feel more confident, in charge, and happier than ever before in my whole life. Surprise, surprise, my skin is looking better than ever.
It has been over two years since our last visit to Philly. Although I still get breakouts from time to time, I am more in touch now with my skin and myself. My skin reacts to any feeling of fatigue in my body or mind.
It is an incredible privilege to be able work for myself, something that I am fully aware not all people have access to. But the real benefit isn’t in not having a boss to report to or worrying about gossip at work. It’s the freedom I have to view myself as more than a title and a salary. I found my true identity when I let go of the things that were not connected to them.