If you’re amongst the 35 million people in America suffering from eczema, you probably know that eczema is triggered by a variety of environmental and genetic factors, including weather conditions, irritants found in skincare products, and other allergens. But did you know that you’re more likely to feel itchy when you’re under pressure?
It’s true - eczema and stress are related. In fact, stress exacerbates eczema symptoms. While some external factors are unavoidable, the good news is that there are some simple techniques you can employ to lower your stress level. Keep reading for helpful tips on how to control your stress so that, in turn, you can control your eczema.
Please keep in mind that although these what we discuss in this post can relieve eczema, we are in no way medical professionals. If you’re experiencing severe eczema symptoms like an infection, it is best to seek medical advice immediately.
The Scientific Link between Eczema and Stress
If you’ve ever experienced an eczema flare-up before a big presentation or exam, it wasn’t a coincidence. Stress-induced eczema is real - and there’s science to back it up. When the body is stressed, it goes into fight-or-flight mode, meaning that there’s an increased production of stress hormones. These hormones affect our immune system, causing an inflammatory response in the skin.
For people with eczema, this boost of inflammation only makes eczema symptoms worse. So yes, eczema is indeed a physical disorder - but it’s connected to your mental and emotional health as well.
The Eczema-Stress Cycle
The relationship between eczema and stress is a vicious cycle. As emotional stress is considered an eczema trigger, eczema symptoms or the urge to scratch may be intensified when a person is under stress. At the same time, simply living with eczema, dealing with its red, inflamed appearance, and struggling to sleep at night, is reason enough to cause anyone stress. So, how can you break the cycle?
Coping with Stress
The key to managing your eczema is learning to manage your stress. Here are some ways to control eczema from stress:
Practise Self-Love: Take time to do something you enjoy! Read a book, paint a picture, immerse yourself in nature, enjoy a night at the cinema - all these things will take your mind off stress and make you feel good. Self-love is so important for your mental health - don’t underestimate it.
Get Enough Sleep: A good night’s sleep is essential for your overall well being. Unfortunately, many people with eczema experience sleepless nights due to the intense urge to scratch.
We suggest wearing eczema sleepwear made from gentle fabrics like organic cotton, TENCEL, and bamboo. With no added chemicals dyes, they are sure to soothe irritation so you can get rest peacefully. Some of our personal favorites are:
If you're looking for some helpful tips on sleeping at night, make sure to read our post on How to Stop Itchy Skin At Night.
Relax: There are plenty of ways to wind down and clear your mind. In fact, even just 15 minutes of meditating a day can significantly lower your stress level. Other suggestions include practicing deep breathing, taking a yoga class, going for a leisurely walk, or even lighting your favourite scented candle and listening to calming music.
Ask For Help: If a long to-do list is causing you stress, learn to prioritize or delegate tasks. You’re only human and you shouldn’t have to do everything on your own. Seek support from family, friends, or work colleagues - never be ashamed to admit that you need help.
Write it Down: Find yourself a journal and write down all your thoughts - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t hold back; allow your stream of consciousness to flow. By letting yourself write without inhibition, you’ll release the negative thoughts from your mind. As a result, you’ll feel lighter and less weighed down by stressful thoughts.
Exercise: Exercising is a great way to boost your overall mood and lower your stress level. From running, to spin class, to playing basketball, there are plenty of ways to keep your body fit and healthy. If sweat is a trigger for your eczema, try low-impact workouts such as yoga, tai-chi, or pilates instead. Not only are these great for your body, they calm your mind as well!
Take a Gentle Bath: Indulging in a soothing bath is a wonderful way to relax your body and calm your mind. Just make sure the water is lukewarm as hot water can exacerbate eczema symptoms.
Be sure to wash with natural soaps only like this Emily Skin Soothers Soap and follow up with a soothing moisturizer like this Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream that is rich in emollients. To prevent irritation, remember to pat dry your skin with a towel as opposed to wiping.
If you'd like to learn more about soothing bath treatments for eczema, make sure to check out our blog post 5 Alternatives to Bleach Baths.
Find Support: If dealing with eczema is making you feel anxious or hopeless, it might be helpful to talk with others who are experiencing the same problems and can understand what you’re going through.
Remember that you are not alone. Find an eczema support group (like our Facebook group) or check out the National Eczema Association’s online support group here. If necessary, speak to a professional. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Reducing stress is an integral part of living a healthy and happy life. It’s even more important for those dealing with eczema because the ability to manage stress makes it possible to manage eczema flare-ups.
What are some methods you use to reduce stress-induced eczema? Let us know!
Bio: Laura is a contributor and content developer for The Eczema Company. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes.