Did you know that meditation can help ease the eczema itch? It might sound crazy - especially since calm is probably the last thing you feel when your skin is on fire, but recent research reports that meditation for eczema is a legitimate coping mechanism to calm flare-ups.
Read on to discover how the practice of mindfulness and meditation can help transform your health and heal your skin.
All About Eczema
Eczema is an auto-immune disease affecting 10-20% of the population. Due to a damaged skin barrier that has difficulty retaining moisture, those with eczema suffer from chronically dry skin. This is what causes symptoms of red, swollen, and extremely itchy patches of skin!
Persistent scratching can cause the skin to crack or bleed, making one more vulnerable to infection.
Although the exact cause of eczema is unknown, it’s believed to be linked to genetic and environmental factors. Common triggers include airborne allergens (pollen, pet fur, dust mites), irritants (soap, laundry detergent, perfumes, certain skin care products, and even certain fabrics such as wool and polyester), inflammatory foods (eggs, dairy products, and nuts), extreme weather conditions (including the dry air and low-humidity of winter) and stress. Yes, stress!
Understanding Eczema and Stress
Eczema and stress have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, the urge to itch is intensified when a person is under stress. But on the other, having eczema is stressful in and of itself. It can certainly be a vicious cycle.
When the body is stressed out, it goes into fight mode. This causes an increased production of stress hormones, which affects our immune system by causing an inflammatory response in the skin. If you suffer from an inflammatory skin condition like eczema, this extra boost of inflammation can mean a serious flare-up!
How Does Meditation Impact Eczema?
Now that you understand how emotional stressors can exacerbate eczema symptoms, let’s dig into how calming your mind can, in turn, help calm your skin.
A calm mind is a powerful force. Meditation has been reported to decrease levels of stress hormones, resulting in an improved quality of sleep and a better ability to cope with stressful events and relationships. Those who meditate report that they are better equipped to recognize stressful triggers and cope with flare-ups.
In addition, the progressive muscle relaxation associated with meditation has proven to decrease itchiness, anxiety, and insomnia. Perhaps most importantly, meditation helps give eczema sufferers more control over their itch.
When you learn to be aware and mindful of your thoughts (and your reaction to them) and let go, you are reclaiming control over your body and inner dialogue. This is deeply significant in being an advocate for your skin health, as when you’re experiencing frustration over an eczema flare-up, your negative thoughts can worsen your symptoms.
Lastly, the deep breathing techniques associated with meditation also have a direct impact on helping heal eczema from within. Known to have a calming effect on the nervous system, deep breathing helps to boost immunity, reduce acidity in the body, and ultimately, reduce stress. While meditation cannot “cure” eczema, it can certainly help you control your symptoms and lessen the emotional impact of eczema.
Tips for Calming your Mind through Meditation
You don’t need to be a yogi-master to practice and benefit from meditation. Check out our top tips for applying mindfulness in your meditation and eczema journey.
Set a Time Limit
If you’re new to meditation, it might be overly ambitious to attempt to meditate for an hour on your first try. Choosing a shorter time frame is perfectly fine! Even just fifteen minutes of meditation a day can bring significant improvement.
Although meditation can be done from any position, we find it works best when you’re comfortable. Finding a place to sit or lie comfortably can help create that space of relaxation in your mind. Enhance your meditation space by lighting calming candles or listening to some calming music. If you’re lucky enough to immerse yourself somewhere in nature, the shores of a beach or a clearing in the woods are idyllic spots.
Close your Eyes
Remove any visual distractions by closing your eyes.
Focus on Breathing
Slowly breathe in and breathe out. Focus on the natural way your body inhales and exhales. Do your best to slow your breath down on the exhale. A good technique is to inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and then exhale for 8 seconds.
Notice your Thoughts
Is your mind wandering to those credit card bills you have to pay or today's to-do list? Our minds like to be busy, and it’s perfectly normal to get caught up in little narratives. If you catch your thoughts drifting off, simply return your attention back to your breathing.
Close with Empathy
When you’re ready, open your eyes and gently lift your gaze. Take a minute to notice your surroundings, connecting with the sounds and sights of your environment. How does your body feel? Notice your thoughts and emotions. Be kind to your mind: don’t judge yourself if you weren't able to pause your thoughts for the whole session (you can always try again tomorrow!)
Have you tried meditation for eczema? Let us know on our Facebook page!