Stopping stress-triggered symptoms in their tracks
Stress affects us in numerous ways, from your thoughts to your behaviours to your deep-seated feelings. That means when you’re feeling worried about your skin issues, you could be letting them take over what you think, how you act, and even your overall mood. And that can make your symptoms even worse, leaving you stuck in a vicious cycle.
It’s time to regain control.
Count on the mind-body connection
One way to diminish stress is to relax your body physically. Releasing the tension in your body can help reduce the worry and panic you may feel in certain situations.
Start small, with the muscles in your face. First, tense them up to feel how uncomfortable it is – clench your jaw, squint your eyes, wrinkle up your nose, frown or purse your lips. After holding for a few seconds, let it all go and feel your muscles relax.
Next, move on to your neck and shoulders. Hunch your back as you bring your shoulders up to your ears. Hold, then release your muscles and feel the tension melt away. Repeat this exercise with your hands and arms, and then with your legs.
Take deep breaths
Feeling worried or stressed can cause rapid and irregular breathing, which can start a cycle of making you feel even more out-of-sorts as your out-of-breath body signals to your brain that there’s a physical threat. Don’t let your breathing beat you down.
To stop this physical signal of stress in its tracks, put one hand on your chest and the other on your midsection. Now take a deep breath, trying to keep your upper hand from moving while you feel the hand on your tummy go slowly out and in again. Breathing this way helps your lungs to take in more air, as they expand downwards where there’s extra space.
As your breaths become deeper, try to control your breathing rate to keep it consistent. Each breath in and out should take the same amount of time. To help with the flow, count to three each time you inhale, and again as you exhale, making sure you keep the air moving rather than holding your breath.
Visualize first to help you cope later
If you’re feeling worried about something that hasn’t happened yet – such as a job interview where you have to put your best face forward, or a pool party where you may feel your skin is on display – spend some time picturing the event. Visualizing what may occur can help you prepare for your possible reactions in social situations. If you have a plan for how you’ll react, you may feel more in control despite the reactions of others.
Aside from providing you with newfound power over your thoughts and feelings (not to mention your behaviour), sidelining stress is important to keeping your symptoms in check. Remember: stress is a known trigger for skin symptoms.
So when stress creeps in, do your best to show it swiftly back out before it causes your condition to flare. Relax your muscles. Visualize yourself coping. And just breathe.