As the month of April is stress awareness month, I will be publishing two blogs relating to stress and eczema. Also, advice will be posted twice a week on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Managing stress is very important due to the strong connection to eczema and many other health conditions.
What is stress?
‘How we react when we feel under pressure or threatened. It usually happens when we are in a situation that we don’t feel we can manage or control’. (Mind.org.uk)
‘The body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It is very common, can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life. But too much stress can affect our mood, body, relationships – especially when it feels out of our control’. (NHS.uk/every mind matters)
‘The feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.’ (Mental health foundation).
All three of these quotes mention pressure. However only Mind and the NHS have linked stress to the way our body reacts under pressure.
Stress is part of life and a small amount is actually natural and can be a positive thing. It can help us become stronger; increase confidence and can make us persevere. However, there are occasions when things in life can become too much.
Life events that can lead to minor stress
- Preparing for a job interview
- Preparing for a presentation
- Meeting a deadline at work or study
- Organising and event
Life events that can lead to high levels of stress
- The increased cost of living – is most likely to be a major factor especially now in today’s society. Higher energy bills are likely to cause issues among individuals and families
- World matters (Pandemic and War) – many people still have anxiety and mental health issues after two years of living in a pandemic. Secondly, the war between Russia and Ukraine has affected many.
- Relationships and family – issues with family members, partners and friends. Going through a breakup.
- Being a carer – e.g. a disabled child or elderly relative can be stressful.
- Life-changing events – moving house, getting married/divorced, bereavements, becoming a parent.
- Jobs – high workload, poor environment redundancy.
- Abuse – this could be physical, mental and emotional.
- Illness – from any disease especially if serious or terminal. Supporting a family member through an illness.
Physical and mental signs
- Physical signs – headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety attacks, increased heart rate.
- Mental/physiological signs – withdrawal from others, being defensive, becoming emotional, lack of sleep, increase in drinking, smoking or drugs.
How stress triggers eczema
When going through a stressful scenario our bodies go into a ‘fight-or-flight’ mode. Afterwards, hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are then released into the body. Too many of these hormones along with the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode affects our immune system. There are also nerves in the body (neuropeptides) that links to the brain and skin. This is what causes eczema to flare up.
This can also lead to other things such as lack of sleep and even worse self-harm and suicide. Therefore it is very important to speak up if stress is affecting your eczema. Also at the same time offer support to others going through this issue.
How stress and eczema can affect mental health
As we know eczema is more than just a skin condition and has psychological impacts. This includes confidence, low self-esteem, morale and even in some cases depression and anxiety. Even a small amount of eczema can cause anxiety and worry. Stress and eczema flare-ups then turn into a cycle. Also in addition the person has to worry about what treatment to use to manage the flare-up.
Personal experiences of stress and eczema
Other examples include anxiety during the pandemic and having covid. During lockdown, I went through loneliness, isolation and missed connections and a normal routine. I also questioned my Chrisitan faith and began to look a lot into spirituality. By doing this I was able to learn more about life and re-evaluate my beliefs.
Stress is a big part of everyone’s lives and can have an impact on our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. All of which can play a part in eczema flare-ups. The next blog will talk about managing stress and eczema.