Picture this: you’re super busy with work, bills, and family responsibilities. You have big decisions to make and a lot on your plate. The stress is making your eczema flare, which just stresses you out even more, triggering a repetitive cycle of worsening skin flares.
If that sounds familiar, know that you’re not alone. Stress is one of the most common triggers of eczema, and part of managing your skin health means finding ways to handle and reduce stress.
Before we detail our recommended stress management strategies, let’s first dive into the connection between eczema and your mental health.
The Eczema and Mental Health Connection
Eczema can take a toll on our mental health. Living with a visible skin condition can be emotionally difficult, and people with eczema often face unwanted stigma, questions and comments from others. It can be easy to withdraw socially or feel like you need to hide your skin.
Eczema and Anxiety and Depression
According to the National Eczema Association, more than 30% of people with eczema have also been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety. Another study found that people with eczema are more likely to develop new cases of depression and anxiety. Anxiety can cause eczema outbreaks through somatization (that’s when someone experiences physical symptoms as a result of psychological or emotional distress.)There is also a growing body of research indicating that chronic inflammation from conditions including eczema can have a psychological impact and contribute to depression.
What the Research Shows About Stress & Eczema
Stress is a major component of the immunopsychiatric link between eczema and mental health. When you’re in a stressful situation, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode. This response causes an increase in the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When your body creates excess cortisol, it can suppress the immune system and set off an inflammatory response.
Research also shows that psychological (or mental) stress significantly slows wound healing. So when you’re in the middle of a very taxing and stressful situation when suddenly your eczema flares up not only have stress caused your eczema to worsen but it’s also slowed your body’s ability to repair the skin.
Can Eczema Be Caused by Stress?
Eczema isn’t caused by stress. In fact, the exact cause of eczema is still unknown today. It’s thought to be a combination of genetic, bacterial, and environmental factors. However, stress can and often does trigger eczema.
How to Reduce Stress & Manage Flare-Ups
The last thing we want is for you to start feeling even more stressed or guilty that you’re feeling stressed. Remember that we all encounter stressful situations in life, and minor stressors can come up every single day. What’s most important is having the tools to support your mind and body when those stressful situations arise.
Here are a few ways to help you lower your stress levels, fight the itch, and improve your overall emotional well-being:
Finding time to squeeze a workout into a busy schedule can feel like a daunting task, but research shows just 20 or 30 minutes of aerobic exercise can help reduce stress. We know that getting sweaty isn’t easy on your skin, but the health benefits of exercise are numerous! When you’re ready to get active, be sure to check out our guide on best practices to mitigate eczema flares from exercising.
Meditation is a helpful tool for reducing stress, and a 2016 study suggests it may help with inflammation as well: the study found that experienced meditators experienced less stress, lower cortisol levels, and a reduction in inflammatory responsiveness. To establish a meditation practice, start small, meditating just 5 or 10 minutes a day. Simply set aside quiet time to focus on your breathing and allow your thoughts to flow away. There are plenty of online resources and apps to help get you started if needed. Interestingly, research has shown yoga to have a similar effect as meditation on cortisol levels.
Get Enough Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends healthy adults get between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. But eczema can disrupt sleep, which in turn results in fatigue, mood changes, loss of concentration, increased cortisol levels, and poorer health overall. To get better sleep with eczema, establish a consistent bedtime routine and take steps to reduce itch at night.
Journaling your feelings and frustrations can be an effective way to release stress and tension. While you’re expressing your feelings, don’t forget to also write down three things you’re grateful for. Gratitude has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. What you’re thankful for can be as simple as the cup of coffee you had in the morning or as big as the house you live in! The important part is just to note the (little or big) things that make you grateful.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
Laughing, hugging, and talking with your close friends or family can effectively reduce cortisol levels. Even if you can’t get together with your loved ones in person, talking on the phone or via video call is the next best thing! Knowing you have a supportive community around who encourages you and brings joy to your life can make all the difference.
Balancing Your Skin Microbiome
Reducing stress is an important way to address a major eczema trigger. But it’s also important to address your skin health at the microbiome level. Research shows that most people with eczema have a bacterial imbalance on the surface of the skin which contributes to eczema flares.
When bad bacteria begins to overgrow, it throws your skin microbiome out of balance and drives an inflammatory response, resulting in eczema symptoms. That’s why bringing balance back to your microbiome can drastically improve the frequency and severity of eczema flare-ups.
Gladskin Eczema Cream is clinically proven to reduce eczema symptoms, including itch and redness, by restoring balance to the skin’s microbiome without the use of steroids, antibiotics, or drying alcohols. For most people, it’s effective in just a few days, so you can outsmart eczema quickly.
Gladskin Champions your Physical and Emotional Health
Reducing stress and caring for your mental health can have a powerful impact on our eczema journey.
Try managing your stress with exercise, meditation, rest, journaling, creative expression, and spending time with friends or family, or by discovering stress management techniques that work best for you. With some self-compassion, grace, and a healthy dose of patience, you can work to reduce stress and get your skin in a better place.