Whether it’s from the sight of itchy, red patches on your skin or due to sleepless nights, eczema symptoms can often put you on edge. This is especially true if you have a very bad form of the skin condition. Stress can then lead to an eczema flare, which causes you to be even more anxious. It’s crucial that you learn ways to control stress in order to help ease your eczema symptoms.
How Does Stress Worsen Eczema?
A lot of times, people view mental health and physical health as two separate things. But with eczema, and other skin conditions, there’s a direct link between the two. The nerves in your body connect to your brain and skin through neuropeptides. So when you feel stressed, it can show up on your skin.
When you’re in stressful situations, your body creates more hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. If your body makes too much cortisol, it can affect your immune system. If your immune system is lowered, it can cause an inflammatory response in your skin. With eczema, you’re especially at risk for these responses.
Similarly, anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, sleeplessness, or depression can all result from eczema. These feelings create more stress, which continues the cycle of eczema flares. It’s important to get help if you notice any of these feelings. Not only to benefit your skin, but also to protect your overall mental health.
How Can I Control My Stress?
It’s impossible to rid yourself of all of the stress in your life. And even if you could, it wouldn’t erase eczema completely. But stress management can ease your eczema symptoms and help you live with the condition more easily.
Stress counseling can help you learn ways to control the physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms of stress. Your counselor can provide you with healthy management tools to replace unhealthy habits, such as drinking or procrastinating.
Stress management can look different for everyone. You could:
Meditate and relax. One study enrolled a group of people with eczema in an 8-week meditation course. They met once a week for 2 hours and learned attention stability and breathing control.
Those in the study reported that their skin didn’t bother them as much during meditation, which resulted in them not scratching as much. They also noticed better sleep quality and an improved ability to deal with stress and relationships.
After the course, they were able to point out stressful triggers in their lives. They learned to take breaks to avoid the need to scratch when feeling overwhelmed. Individuals said that while meditation didn’t get rid of their eczema symptoms, they felt more in control of their condition by the end of the 8 weeks.
You can use meditation and relaxation tactics to help your stress at home. Try things like deep breathing while listening to calming music, meditation apps, reading a book, cuddling a pet, or taking a walk outside. Simple breaks throughout the day can also relieve stress. Make time for your favorite activities like cooking, painting, working out, or playing games.
Try hypnotherapy. Hypnosis isn’t as dramatic as television shows and movies make it out to be. It can actually train you to relax and strengthen your overall well-being.
One study found that children and adults with treatment-resistant eczema showed improvements in their symptoms after hypnotherapy. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in this. They can help you find an expert near you.
Replace bad habits with healthy ones. Stress management is an everyday process. Take a look at your daily routine and switch unhelpful habits with useful actions. For example instead of:
- Drinking or smoking, try yoga or a taking a bath
- Overeating or undereating, try meal prepping for proper health
- Staying annoyed or closed off from others, try forming good communication patterns with loved ones
- Reckless behavior -- like driving to let off steam -- try reading a book or listening to music
Make sure you get enough sleep. If you have eczema, sleep can often be interrupted by constant itching. To get better sleep, try to:
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine and practice it each night.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
- Keep your bedroom environment comforting. Get rid of distractions and set your phone and other electronics away. A cool and dark area is best for sleeping.
- Stay away from caffeine after lunchtime.
Exercise.Physical activity is a great way to deal with stress. Regardless of your favorite method of exercise, experts believe that it can trigger hormones and neurotransmitters that boost your mood. Researchers suggest that people get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
But be careful if sweat tends to make your eczema worse. If this is the case, make sure to take a lukewarm or cool shower right after your exercise. To get the best workout with eczema, follow these tips:
- Hydrate before, during, and after you work out.
- Choose clothing that doesn’t irritate your skin. One-hundred percent cotton, loose-fitting, light, and breathable outfits are best.
- If you start to feel a flare coming on, take a break from your workout.
- Use a towel to keep cool.
- Moisturize before and after you exercise.
How to Find Counseling for Eczema
Your doctor can help you find a counselor for eczema and stress. They can connect you with an expert that fits your specific needs. In addition, you can do your own research to discover helpful outlets in your area. When you do your research, ask yourself:
- Will my insurance cover this provider?
- How many counseling sessions does my insurance cover?
- Is the counselor licensed?
- Does the counselor specialize in stress and eczema?
If you don’t know the answer to these questions, it’s important to call and ask before you schedule your appointments.
Your counselor or doctor can also help you find other outlets. Ask them for recommendations of eczema support groups, chat rooms, or other community resources that can improve your stress with the condition.
You can also find your own support groups through online sites like Facebook, the National Eczema Association, or Eczema Wise, an online support group.