Managing Eczema: Mind and Body

Living with eczema has its ups and downs. You never know when it decides to act up and when it decides to play nice, which makes this chronic disease all the more frustrating. We know how difficult it can be and that’s why we want to share with you some tips on getting past the physical boundaries eczema places on us, ultimately allowing us to embrace a happier, healthier self.

Minding Your Body

As we know it, there’s no magic pill or cure for eczema that will instantly take away all one’s symptoms as if they never existed. However, there are ways we can help alleviate and reduce the risks of flares, allowing us to have more time to enjoy ourselves, not worrying about the dreaded ‘itch.’

  1. Know Your Triggers. One of the first things we should always be aware of when managing eczema is what are our triggers and how do we avoid them. If unavoidable, then how do we stop them from exacerbating our symptoms and contributing to the itch and scratch cycle. 

  2. Follow a Regular Skincare Routine. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to maintain a healthy skin barrier for those of us with eczema. A consistent regimen gives you control over the general condition of your skin, allowing us to more readily recover from flares in the cases when they do occur. 

  3. Know When to Make Use of Your Medications. Just like how there are good and bad days with our eczema, there are days when we will need to grab our topicals and other eczema medications, and days when we can just leave them behind. Sometimes less is more, and on those days when your symptoms are mild, adequate moisturization may be all you need… so know when you need your medications and when you don’t!

Minding Your Mind

Beyond dealing with the physical symptoms of eczema, properly managing our own mental health plays a huge role in how well we cope with eczema. When our bodies aren’t functioning at its optimum, it’s human nature to feel stressed out. The key is to overcome those initial stages of frustration and feelings of defeat and instead look at more positive ways in which we can learn to accept ourselves and our conditions. 

  1. Engage in Mindfulness Behaviors: Trying things like yoga, positive thinking, and meditation can not only help us with coming to terms with our eczema, but can help us connect with ourselves at a deeper level, allowing us to learn to be more mindful of our interactions with our environment.

  2. Invest in Self-Care: Just as mindfulness behaviors help us understand ourselves and our environments better, engaging in activities that we enjoy on a regular basis can help relieve our stress levels. When we are stressed, our risk of having a flare increases. The cycle continues as you become more stressed from your flare, which makes the flare worse. It becomes a vicious cycle and things just don’t ever seem to get better. The key then is to reduce your stress levels to begin with. So going on that run, trying that new recipe you found, and getting that body massage you’ve been wanting, may just be a way for you to show your body and mind that you care and that it can relax for once.

  3. Relax and Sleep: Just as how engaging in fun activities can reduce our stress levels, sometimes doing nothing can also help. Relaxation techniques where you learn to loosen your muscles can help with relieving some of the tension in your body. This helps with sleeping patterns as well, and as we know it, when our bodies are well rested, it is more ready to deal with any external forces that try to act on it. 

  4. Reach Out: Know that you do not have to be alone in this journey. Talking with your provider, family, and friends about your condition can open communication and allow for everyone to work together to help you manage your eczema. Also, having a listening ear is just nice too.

Specifically for the Little Ones

Sometimes it just takes a little more to managing your child’s eczema. As children may not be fully aware of the reasons for why they have eczema or even what eczema is, a separate set of strategies need to be used for them when caring for their eczema.

  1. Distract and Develop Competing Responses: Distracting your child and keeping their hands busy with an activity helps to divert their attention away from the itching sensations they feel. Whether it be having them build lego assemblies, draw masterpieces, or fold origami figures, actively engaging in hands-on activities helps children to not only forget about their symptoms, but have fun as well.

  2. Plan Ahead for School: For children with eczema, educating teachers and staff about your child’s condition and treatment plan allows for everyone to take on a team approach in managing flares in school. Making sure moisturizers and medications are available on site and openly speaking about eczema and letting others know that it is not contagious also helps. 

  3. Involve Children in Their Treatment: While eczema can sometimes seem all-consuming, the key with children is to treat it like just another regular experience in life. Listen and offer them your unconditional support and give them as much control over their own treatment as possible. So offering them choices of what pajamas they want to wear after applying skincare and when they want to perform skincare helps more than you think. By actively engaging them in their own care, we make the treatment process more about them, and not just the disease. In addition, giving them control helps to build self-management skills and gain self-esteem. 

  4. Make the Treatment Routine Easier: The ultimate goal in treatment for children is to overcome any treatment anxiety that may exist and make moisturizing fun. Silly games with moisturizers, having children apply moisturizers on mom and dad first, roleplaying princesses or superheros who need some extra skin protection, are just some ways we can make moisturizing less of a chore and more of a fun past-time for children. 

At the end of the day, we just want you to know that living with eczema does not need to be as stressful as it can sometimes be. We want all our patients to learn to love their body and mind, because ultimately, they are worth going the extra mile for. 

Weihong Zheng, M.D.