3 Tips to Reduce Stress and Scratching in Eczema

Feeling itchy and scratch­ing the skin is a hall­mark of atop­ic dermatit­is or eczema. One of the major trig­gers for this response is stress. 

I am going to list a few of the more com­mon sources of stress.

  1. Losing your job
  2. Having a major life change (los­ing a loved one, con­flicts with friends and family)
  3. Trying not to scratch
  4. Feeling insec­ure about your inab­il­ity to stop scratch­ing, or feel­ing insec­ure about your­self in general
  5. Being a worry-wart
  6. Exhaustion and too much activity
  7. Major hor­mone changes (puberty, men­o­pause, start­ing or stop­ping the birth con­trol pill)
  8. A high-pres­sure job or home life, with major demands
  9. Feeling out of con­trol about your skin and life in general

What they do the stressors have in common?

All sources of stress activ­ate our hor­mone sys­tem, and the fight-or-flight response. This response increases inflam­ma­tion in the body, and changes the abil­ity of our immune sys­tem to be bal­anced and healthy.

Stress-induced inflam­ma­tion activ­ates the inflam­ma­tion already in skin with eczema. It becomes increas­ingly more dif­fi­cult to con­trol scratch­ing itchy, inflamed skin when the only thing you can con­trol is itch­ing itself. The cycle itself is so dif­fi­cult to inter­rupt once it stops.

So, rather than beat your­self up (if you have eczema), or con­tin­ue to admon­ish people you love to stop scratch­ing (if you are a fam­ily or friend sup­port), let’s con­sider oth­er options.

3 Stress-Busting Tips to Reduce Scratching in Eczema

  1. Making scratch­ing more con­scious. There are actu­ally a num­ber of apps for itch­ing with con­scious track­ing and noti­cing when itch­ing. Rather than cri­ti­ciz­ing or put­ting “names” on the itch­ing itself, it can help to just pay atten­tion in general.
  2. Identifying your extern­al trig­gers for stress. If you feel uncom­fort­able in cer­tain situ­ations, you more likely to itch. Try to identi­fy when this hap­pens. There are oth­er ways to calm your­self down before you are in a situ­ation (deep breath­ing, tak­ing breaks, imagery) and if you can accept and identi­fy them in advance, you may be able to itch a bit less.
  3. Identifying your own anxi­et­ies sur­round­ing this con­di­tion. You may feel over­whelmed, and hope­less. You may also feel like you have no con­trol over your body. These thoughts and feel­ings about your body can be chal­len­ging, espe­cially when they are on a run­ning loop. What is import­ant to notice in these moments is a few items:
  • While the dis­order is very uncom­fort­able, you are not dying. The crisis is only that you feel you can­not escape the dis­com­fort, which is dis­tress­ing. The unknown can be scary. This does not mean your suf­fer­ing is not import­ant, this just means that the moments of intens­ity will pass, as they always do.
  • As flared as the skin can be, there are solu­tions. You just may not have iden­ti­fied them yet.
  • What are some good and pos­it­ive things about your­self, not just with this con­di­tion, but in your­self as a whole? While you have eczema, you are not eczema.

These few things alone can help to link the deep con­nec­tion between the mind and body, and improve it. Who knows? You may be able to name the ele­phant in the room, and as a res­ult, your body has an oppor­tun­ity change its responses.

Thoughts on stress and eczema? Feel free to post below!

Next week I will post on some phys­ic­al sup­ports for the skin to relief the itch in a pinch.

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