Imagine these scenarios:
– You just had a blow up with your spouse and now your eczema is really acting up.
– On the way home from work, there was a big accident ahead of you and you jammed on the brakes just in time to avoid it. Now your skin is really inflamed and painfully itchy.
– Life has been rough for awhile. There have been layoffs at work, you've had to take a pay cut, and you have to work longer hours to make up for the people who were laid off. This grind has been going on for months and your eczema is almost constantly flared up.
In each of those scenarios, your eczema flare ups were caused by stress. Stress is a normal physical response to events that upset your balance or make you feel threatened. When you sense danger – whether real or imagined – your body responds by kicking into high gear in a rapid, "fight-or-flight" reaction, or the stress response. Your heart beats faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus – preparing you to either fight or run from the danger at hand. They also cause your eczema flare ups.
Some will tell you that stress itself is one of the causes of eczema, in that, "I didn't have eczema before I was stressed out and now I do." They probably had eczema factors, such as a family history or allergies, but it did not manifest because the body's immune system was healthy enough to keep the eczema symptoms in check and out of sight. Prolonged stress, over a long period of time, will run the body's defenses down and compromise the immune system to the point that the dormant eczema rears its ugly head.
There are many things you can do to combat stress. Most of them sound simplistic. They are simple, not simplistic, but most people have trouble doing these simple things. That's why stress management is such a big business in the United States.
– Make time for yourself where you don't – or can't – worry about the stressors in your life. Go to a movie. Sit in a comfortable chair with a hot cup of tea and read a book. Take a yoga class. Volunteer at a charitable organization. There are a multitude of things you can do, just make sure you commit this time to yourself and don't let your stresses encroach.
– Imitate your dog. I'm serious. Dogs live in the now. They don't fret about what happened yesterday and they don't stress about what may happen tomorrow. You can't change what happened yesterday and tomorrow isn't here yet. Do your best now and the rest will take care of itself.
– Put your issues in perspective. From time to time we all have crises in our lives, some being major, unfortunately, but by and large, most things, when viewed in perspective, are relatively minor and not worth having a major stress attack over.
– Understand that there will always be some stress in your life. Researchers say that some stress in our lives is actually a good thing, but for the rest of it, understand that your life will never be completely stress free, so enjoy the good times and roll with the bad times.
Once you start understanding what impact stress has on your eczema flare ups and start finding ways to de-stress, you will find that your flare ups decrease in severity and also won't occur as often. As an added benefit, you will also find that the overall quality of your life will improve.