As the month of April is stress awareness month, I will be publishing two blogs relating to this topic. This is the second blog therefore if you’ve already done so please read the previous blog as it talks about what stress is, examples of stress and how it affects our bodies and eczema. This blog talks about the solution to managing stress and what we can do to reduce stress. Ensuring that we manage stress at any time of the year is important.
What is the solution?
Firstly, identify when you’re stressed and what is causing you stress. Secondly, do not ignore any physical or mental signs. My previous blog mentions that other issues besides eczema flare-ups may happen with our bodies and mind. For example, if your appetite is not the same as usual and/or you’re becoming more defensive and tense then this could be a sign of stress. If you have children, observe any unusual behaviours that they might have as this could be stress linked.
How we can manage stress
Could you make changes?
This could be anything such as learning when to say ‘no’ to certain commitments or tasks. There may be times when we feel obliged to say yes take on extra things and become overwhelmed. This is very common in the workplace due to wanting to give a good impression.
Making a priority list and identifying what is essential can also help. When making your list try doing this in a table by writing out each tasks activity and stating whether the task is ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’.
Consider if possible to allocate/delegate a task to someone else. For example at work, could you raise your level of workload with your line manager? Do you require help with organising your day and prioritising tasks? Could your colleagues help? If it’s family-related, could you ask your partner/spouse to help out with some housework so you’re not overwhelmed? Could a friend or a family member help with looking after the children for a couple of hours while you work on a task?
Join a support group
Speaking about eczema can be embarrassing or shameful for some people. However, speaking to someone else with the same or similar condition can actually help. Ideas and suggestions can then be exchanged and new friendships can be formed. There are many support groups available on social media and Deeper Than Eczema will be opening up the support group again soon.
Eating unhealthy food such as sugar, processed, caffeine and alcohol can cause eczema flare-ups. So can food containing allergens such as wheat, milk, nuts and shellfish. Each individual is different therefore work out which foods or drinks do not agree with your skin. If you have a child with eczema and wish to try changing their diet it is probably best to double-check this with a doctor first.
Be mindful about drinking
Alcohol dehydrates the skin which can cause the skin to become dry itchy and lead to a flare-up. From personal experience drinking, high levels of wine containing sulphate dries out my skin. High levels of caffeine can also lead to flare-ups.
Get some rest/sleep
Managing stress also includes getting enough sleep. However, I agree it is easier said than done especially for those with eczema and going through a flare-up.
If you (or a loved one/child) are having issues with sleeping due to eczema and itching symptoms speak to your GP or dermatologist. Some antihistamines cause drowsiness which can help which is what I use. Taking a nice bath or shower can help you relax. Turning off electronics including mobile phones an hour or so before bedtime helps. Try and have a bed routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time.
One thing I do personally is not to do anything distressing before bedtime. This includes scrolling on social media, reading debates and listening to the news. Thirdly, I listen to meditations saved on YouTube about mindfulness and meditation which helps with sleep.
If you drink caffeinated drinks try to consume these in the morning. I have coffee in the morning, sometimes early afternoon before 3 pm and after that, I drink water or herbal tea.
Further/similar advice on sleeping better can be found here.
Take time out/a break
Practising self-care, calming the mind and doing positive things for yourself are important. Also setting boundaries with responsibilities relating to others and personal responsibilities can improve stress levels.
Be kind to you
Having time to ourselves and prioritising our needs before others is important for our mental health. This can be tricky if you have dependents such as children, partner or being a carer. However, high levels of stress and burnout will not help your dependents.
Seek professional help if necessary
If you require this then please do not feel guilty or ashamed. Contact your GP in the first instance who may refer you to services such as CBT or IAPT. Waiting lists for these services can be long via the NHS therefore if you can afford to do so consider having private therapy.
Many employers offer EAP services (employee assistance programmes) which may help and it doesn’t have to be a work-related issue.
Activities that can reduce stress
Start a new activity or hobby
This can include writing, painting, knitting, and video games. These activities are also a distraction so can take our minds away from stress and eczema. Ask yourself what you like to do to distract yourself. You could also do the same with your children to distract them from scratching their skin.
This is a great way of managing stress and anxiety and improving our well-being. Mindfulness and meditation involves sitting or lying down, listening to music or someone guiding and going to the present moment. This helps you imagine or visualise something such as positivity or relaxation to take your mind off stress.
Exercise is another way of managing stress and anxiety levels and can boost your mood, especially in the sun. It may be difficult to motivate yourself initially, however starting small such as a 20-minute walk and then building yourself up is ideal. Whatever exercise you enjoy is good, whether it is cycling, walking, running etc. If you are already experienced with exercise then intense activities such as running, and spinning is also good for relieving stress. If you do get sweaty after exercise remember to shower immediately afterwards and avoid wearing nylon. Finally, staying hydrated when exercising this important.
I hope that these solutions and suggestions have helped you in some way manage your eczema and stress levels. If there is anyone who may benefit from this please feel free to forward this to them. If you have any queries please send a message via the contact section or email firstname.lastname@example.org.