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Alex Hill

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Providing the Right Support: 4 Tips for Breast Cancer Caregivers

By Breast Cancer, Caregivers, Emotional support, Health ConditionsNo Comments

A breast cancer diagnosis can be far-reaching. Not only does it impact the life of the person receiving it, but also their loved ones, some of whom will take on the role of a caregiver. A breast cancer caregiver is someone that provides support, whether that be practical or emotional, to a person who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. This could be a family member, a friend, or a colleague. As a breast cancer caregiver, it’s absolutely normal for you to feel overwhelmed at times. Just remember that you’re not alone. Providing lasting emotional support to your loved one can only be possible if you take care of yourself first. Here, you’ll find support and knowledge to help you avoid caregiver burnout. Plus, tips to help you take care of yourself so you can take care of your loved one. It’s good to ask for help. When it comes to dealing with a serious diagnosis like breast cancer, support from friends and family is vital. Helping your loved one through this difficult time may leave you feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, especially if this is your first direct experience with cancer. It can be hard for caregivers of people with breast cancer to admit, but you need support too. And you deserve it. While you’re not the person battling breast cancer, your needs are also important. It’s good to ask for help. You can only provide lasting, long-term support for your loved one on the road to recovery if you stay strong yourself. And to stay strong, you need support. Communicate openly, establish and respect personal boundaries, and allow space and time for your individual needs. Figure out a way to find your balance and make time to look after yourself too. Communication and boundaries. Effective and open communication is key to providing your loved one with emotional support after their breast cancer diagnosis. Healthy communication means respectful language and clear personal boundaries when it comes to where, when, and how much time you’re able to give. Here are some more ways to practice positive communication while you help support your loved one in navigating their cancer journey together: Help and encourage your loved one to set clear boundaries in their everyday life. This could mean knowing that they can cancel appointments when they’re exhausted or taking time alone when they need it. Discuss the different support options available if your loved one needs extra help. Discuss when it’s important for them to ask for help, for example, when their energy is lacking or they’re in physical pain. Encourage your loved one to actively communicate their needs, as this may also help you provide them with the right support. Actively listen, take turns speaking for two minutes without interruption, and only respond when they other person has finished talking. Show physical compassion by giving your loved one a hug or lend a listening ear. Verbally acknowledge their feelings by trying sentences like: “I’m so sorry you feel that way. I can imagine that this is hard.” As a caregiver, it’s important to open up a dialogue whenever you can. Communication is key after all. By being receptive to your loved one’s needs, you provide them with that priceless feeling of being loved and being heard – an important factor on the road to recovery. If you’ve found yourself in the role of breast cancer caregiver, you might be wondering how to do it right. In this article, we’ve got four valuable tips that can help you provide the right support to your loved one. 4 tips for caregivers. Practicing effective communication and establishing boundaries can benefit both you and your loved one with cancer greatly. There are also other important things you can do in your role as caregiver to help your loved one feel supported. Here are 4 more valuable tips for caregivers supporting people with breast cancer: Build a support network. Supporting a loved one with breast cancer involves building an effective support system. Self-care when living with breast cancer is important, but your loved one can’t do it all alone. And they shouldn’t have to. The saying goes, “No man is an island”, and one of the most beautiful things about being human is the sense of community we share with one another. Sometimes it takes a village. And that’s okay. We’re all here for each other. You’ll be amazed at how willing friends and family may be to support you if you approach them openly and ask for help. Tip: A detailed support plan can help to ease the burden for everyone involved. Help your loved one with breast cancer write down a priority list outlining exactly what they need and how their caregivers can best support them on a daily basis. Be open. It can be tricky to talk about certain topics. Maybe you or your loved one is embarrassed to talk openly or ask questions about sensitive issues. In these cases, open communication is particularly important. It can also help to strengthen your relationship and support the healing process. Don’t be afraid to bring up topics like sex, stress, or depression. Cancer can have an impact on all of these areas of life and not talking about them can often make the situation more difficult. It’s important to be able to talk openly about feelings and insecurities. Sometimes the support of close friends or therapists can also make communication easier. And for the times when open communication is not so easy, it may likely mean a lot to your loved one if you respond to their needs without them having to ask. Making sure there’s food in the house or reminding them of their appointments are great ways to reassure your loved one that you’re there for them and are open to their needs. Overcome everyday challenges together. One of the most important parts of caregiving is helping with everyday tasks and challenges. When living with cancer, it can be hard to adjust to the fact that things don’t work out the way they used to. But that’s okay. You’re there to provide help and support to your loved one when they need it. Supporting with everyday tasks can help your loved one more than you may realize. This includes things like grocery shopping or household chores like cleaning, cooking, and childcare. Be sure to reach out to your own extended support system if you need extra help. You’re all in this together. Avoid caregiver burnout. When providing support to someone with breast cancer, it’s important not to fall into panicked caregiving mode, but to plan for the long term. This is how you’ll manage to avoid potential caregiver burnout. Communicating openly with your own loved ones and building a strong support network outside of your day-to-day caregiving role are both effective ways to curb caregiver burnout. As a caregiver, you can also prepare yourself to deal with some of the most common challenges people with breast cancer face on a day-to-day basis. These include: Fatigue. Stress. Anxiety. Depression. It’s normal for your loved one to experience these tricky feelings on a daily basis. Encourage them to communicate their feelings and needs so you can give them exactly what they need. Whether that be alone time or a hug. Also, try not to take things personally. Cancer is an extremely emotional experience so don’t be offended if your loved one is a little short with you. It’s also a great idea to take advantage of any extra support available. There are a lot of online resources that offer helpful information for caregivers supporting people with breast cancer. You’re never alone on your caregiver journey. The first step to finding the right help is to ask for it. And just in case you needed a reminder, you’re doing a great job. You’ve got this.

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Why Physical Activity Is So Important When Living With Breast Cancer

By Breast Cancer, Featured, Health Conditions, NutritionNo Comments

Living with breast cancer can be both physically and mentally challenging. A cancer diagnosis and the treatment itself can put a lot of strain on the body and lead to enormous changes, often resulting in both mental and physical exhaustion. Remind yourself to be kind to yourself. When living with cancer, it’s vital that you support your body and mind as lovingly as possible throughout your treatment and recovery. One effective way to do this is through physical exercise. Getting moving can help you cope with the changes going on with your body and even counteract them. But, don’t panic. When we say physical activity, we’re not talking about running a marathon or jumping out of a plane. Getting moving doesn’t always mean a draining exercise session. Light to moderate physical activity that you can integrate into your daily routine can already make a big difference- mentally as well as physically. There’s often an assumption that a full recovery from breast cancer requires rest, rest, and more rest. But regular physical activity is vital when you’re living with cancer. Keep on reading to find out more. Movement can and should be part of your day. Physical activity really gets your body going and has many positive effects on our bodies and minds. Regular movement can help to support your body in your day-to-day life if you are living with breast cancer. Certain physical complaints that go hand in hand with breast cancer can be reduced by light exercise and can even be partially prevented by regular physical activity. Regular movement has the power to improve your overall quality of life and well-being. How? By having an impact on the following factors: Fatigue and tiredness. Cancer cells use up a lot of the body’s energy reserves and cause inflammatory reactions in the body. Adding to this, the psychological stress of a cancer diagnosis can also have a big impact on the body. When it comes to treatment, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can damage the body’s tissue and may lead to a disturbed formation of blood cells. As blood cells are responsible for the transport of oxygen, all of this combined can lead to extreme exhaustion and fatigue. Physical exercise can offset all of the above by stimulating blood circulation and improving the oxygen supply in the body. Movement also activates the energy power of blood cells and helps them generate new energy. This will help you feel more active and alert and help your body to tackle exhaustion head on. Quality of sleep. While you may be dealing with exhaustion and fatigue, when it comes to getting enough good quality shut-eye, cancer can also cause problems. Sleep disorders can be one of the common side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and are often the result of the worry and stress you may be dealing with. If you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep, physical exercise can help you to doze off in good time, and also prolong the deep sleep phase when intensive physical recovery and regeneration take place. Sleep is magic so be sure to do whatever you can to make sure you’re getting enough. Depression and anxiety. Exercise releases happiness hormones like serotonin and dopamine in the body, helping to lift your mood and reduce stress. Physical activity also helps boost your self-confidence and improve your body image, both of which can take a hit after a cancer diagnosis. Lymphoedema. If a lump is found in the breast, lymph nodes in the armpit area may also be removed during breast cancer surgery for diagnostic purposes. This can disrupt lymphatic drainage in the arm and upper body, increasing the risk of lymphoedema. Exercise stimulates the muscles around the lymph vessels, which act like a pump to help transport fluid. This makes it easier for fluid to be absorbed from the tissues through the lymph vessels and returned to the vascular system, so you can also move your arm more easily again. Muscle loss and weight fluctuations. If you’re going through acute breast cancer treatment, you may find that you don’t manage to get moving for several weeks, which can cause you to lose muscle mass. This can lead to weight loss and feelings of weakness. Physical activity helps keep your muscles toned and your weight stable. Exercise also helps prevent weight gain caused by hormonal changes. Immune system. A strong immune system is vital for a healthy and cancer-free life. Physical exercise helps activate the immune system and helps fight inflammation in the body. It also contributes to cell repair and the prevention of cell damage through antioxidant effects. Cancer growth and recurrence. Hormone receptor (HR+) breast cancer is a hormone-dependent growing cancer that’s related to increased levels of estrogen in the body. Exercise lowers estrogen levels in the blood and tissues, which means it can prevent breast cancer growth. Physical activity also competes with cancer cells for energy sources. Cancer cells feed mainly on glucose, which is consumed during exercise. Regular movement can therefore improve your long term health by tackling cancer recurrence. Physical activities to try if you have breast cancer. As we said, there’s no need to run a marathon everyday or get into extreme sports to help you feel better. There are a number of simple activities you can do to keep your body moving. It is, however, important to consult your doctor before starting a new physical activity. Don’t forget to also consider your personal physical limits. You and your experience are unique, so be sure to find the level and kind of physical activity that’s right for you. On days when you feel tired and weak, start with very light movements you can do throughout the day. For example, getting up frequently to get a glass of water or going outside to take a short walk in the fresh air. Gentle stretching and light yoga for a few minutes a day can also be a good start. When you’re feeling more energetic, you can get your body moving a little more with moderate exercise. This can include a longer walk or Nordic walking, yoga, Tai Chi, or gymnastics. If you don’t feel like leaving the house, you can also try these activities in the comfort of your own home. Try them alone or with friends you feel comfortable with. Household chores like vacuuming, gardening, or mowing the lawn are also moderate to vigorous physical activities and can be done if you feel strong enough. In the long term, you can try to include activities that increase your endurance in your exercise plan. These include cycling, dancing, or jogging. At the same time, be mindful of your physical limits and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t feel fit enough yet. To stay fit and healthy, the American Cancer Society recommends “at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days a week.” Keep on moving. Physical activity should always go hand-in-hand with a balanced diet. Physical movement requires higher energy resources, so you should provide your body with nutrients by following a balanced diet. Also, make sure you drink plenty of fluids, especially when you’re working up a sweat while exercising. Reducing stress and avoiding situations that throw you off balance can also do wonders for your overall well-being. Try practicing meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises alongside regular exercise. The Breast Cancer program from Sidekick Health is designed to help you make these habits a part of your everyday routine. If you want to find out more about the relationship between physical activity and breast cancer, check out this interview with a physical therapist and cancer survivor who explains why you shouldn’t skip your workout. If you’re living with breast cancer and want to find out how else you can look after your mental health throughout your treatment, take a look at this article right here.

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Breast Cancer Check-Ups: How to Make the Most Out of Your Appointments

By Breast Cancer, Emotional support, Featured, HCP, Health ConditionsOne Comment

You’re on your way home after your breast cancer check-up appointment, and it’s only now that all those questions you’d been storing up come flooding back to you. During your appointment, however, your mind went blank. Sound familiar? Appointments with your healthcare providers are key touchpoints in your journey to recovery, and getting all the information you need when you meet with your doctor is important. But, we understand that feeling overwhelmed and navigating medical jargon can sometimes make that difficult. We’ve put together a guide to support you during your journey, including how best to prepare for your appointments and what questions to ask. Emotional well-being in between appointments. There’s no right or wrong way to feel after a breast cancer diagnosis. People who have just received a diagnosis can go through many different emotions in one day – from shock and anger to disbelief and numbness. The days and weeks immediately after a diagnosis while you wait for your first appointment can be particularly difficult. Many people start to feel calmer once a treatment plan has been identified. However, it’s still very common to struggle with the following types of emotions in between appointments. Acknowledging these feelings and knowing that you’re not alone in them will help you to navigate your treatment journey. Stress. A cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming, making it hard to think straight or carry out everyday tasks. Some people also experience physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, diarrhea, or difficulty sleeping, all of which often lead to raised levels of stress and anxiety. Sadness. It’s normal to have times when you feel very low. Breast cancer treatment and recovery is rarely a linear journey. And sometimes, a cancer diagnosis can trigger more serious mental health issues such as depression. Loneliness. Feeling lonely or isolated is very common, and you may feel lonely even when family and friends surround you. If they haven’t experienced cancer themselves, you might feel like they don’t understand what you’re going through. How to make the most of your appointments. We understand that appointments with your cancer care team can sometimes feel pressured. This is your opportunity to speak in person with the healthcare professionals, get some answers to your ongoing questions, and receive those all-important updates. Firstly, know that you can always let your doctor know if you’re having a hard time following along during the visit. Doctors tend to forget that their medical jargon isn’t always clear, and will be more than happy to rephrase their explanations. Remember, you and your well-being are the priority throughout this journey. Here are some other ways to look after yourself and get the most out of your appointments: Preparation. Before an appointment, plan your journey, leave yourself plenty of time and, most importantly, write down all the questions you’d like to ask. We recommend putting your main concerns at the top of your list to make sure they get covered in good time. It’s always worth bringing a pen and a notebook to jot down answers and further questions that come up too. Advocacy. Our number one tip is to bring someone along to assist you. Someone you trust who can help worry about the best route to get there, as well as help take notes so you don’t have to remember every little detail on your own. If they can’t join you in person, you can always ask them to call in with a video or audio call. Ask questions. There’s no such thing as a stupid question! Doctor’s appointments and meetings with your health care team can be tricky. You often get a lot of new information and hear terms that might be difficult to understand. Practical questions for your first meeting might include: What treatment is recommended for my diagnosis? What are the benefits and risks? How and when will I receive my treatment? How long will treatment last? What are the main side effects? How can I tell if the treatment is working? Is there anything I can do to aid my recovery? What clinical trials are available for me? If you’re looking for further advice on questions to ask your doctor, the American Cancer Society has compiled a comprehensive list to guide you from diagnosis through treatment and recovery. Tackling difficult topics. There’s no need to be embarrassed about any part of your breast cancer journey. Breast cancer and its treatment – from screening tests, genetic testing, breast reconstruction surgeries to radiation therapy – can impact many areas of your body and personal life. Understanding the side effects of your treatment and feeling confident enough to talk to your doctor and support network about them will ensure you get the help, care, and information you need when you need it. “The worst is hair loss. You cry for your hair because it has such a strong link to your identity. For people struggling with this, we’re happy to put them in touch with a wigmaker in advance of their therapy. The psychological burden of breast cancer is another strong side effect. Our psycho-oncologist offers help in the form of talks during the therapy. It’s also important that people with cancer communicate with their loved ones. Be open with them, tell them that side effects are normal, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.” Nurse Ines, Specialist Oncology Nurse. How can you live well when living with breast cancer? It’s still possible to find joy in the everyday, even when you’re living with breast cancer. You can read more about that right here. By engaging in positive tasks and building healthy habits that focus on physical activity, tailored diet, sleep, stress management, and medication adherence, you can make a big difference to your overall quality of life. “When you’re living with a condition like breast cancer, making small changes to your daily routine can have a big impact on your overall quality of life.” Haukur – Physical Therapist, Clinical Researcher, and cancer survivor. Advocating for yourself, committing to self-care, and getting the right support are invaluable when living with a chronic disease. Explore our other articles on breast cancer and find valuable, supportive information on mental health as well as tools for breast cancer caregivers.

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Mental Health and Breast Cancer – It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

By Breast Cancer, Emotional support, Featured, Health Conditions, Mindfulness / Selfcare2 Comments

When faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s common to experience feelings such as fear, helplessness, despair, and even shame. These same feelings can linger well beyond therapy or recovery. If you can identify with any of the above, know that you’re not alone. Your feelings are valid, and it’s okay not to be okay. In fact, according to one scientific study, people with breast cancer are at higher risk for psychological distress than people diagnosed with other types of cancer. Nearly 42% of breast cancer patients reported experiencing at least one mental health disorder, the most common among these being anxiety, adjustment disorders, or depression. For this reason, the importance of mental health support for people with breast cancer has become more recognized and is now a key part of treatment. Understanding that your mind is dealing with breast cancer as much as your body will help you recognize the impact it has on your mental health. And understanding your condition better means that you’ll be more willing to ask for help. Having access to the right support can help you cope better with the psychological burden of breast cancer. Keep on reading to discover exactly how breast cancer impacts your mental health and how you can look after your mind throughout your journey. How breast cancer affects your mental health. Living with a condition like breast cancer can affect your mental health in a variety of ways: Breast cancer and its treatment cause physical changes in your body. These changes can be temporary, like increased sweating or hair loss, but may also be permanent, like removal of the breast, for example. These physical changes can cause self-doubt, identity struggles, reduced sex drive, and body image issues, all of which can affect your mental health. A breast cancer diagnosis often means that your life plans need to be put on hold. While this can be daunting, it’s important that you take enough time to devote yourself fully to your recovery. However, taking a break from your job or other pursuits can have a big impact as you deal with fears of no longer being able to practice your profession. You may need to rely on others, creating new dynamics which can affect your relationships. The support of friends and family will be vital during this tricky time. Sometimes, it can be hardest to communicate with those closest to you. It may be that you don’t want to burden them or cause them to worry. Or perhaps there are some sensitive topics that you’re too embarrassed to discuss. A lack of communication can lead to feelings of isolation and negatively affect your mental health. We know that this might sound a little scary. But understanding how breast cancer can affect you mentally is the first step to practicing self-compassion. Self-care and self-love are vital. So be kind to yourself if you find that breast cancer is taking a toll on your mental health. How to recognize that you’re struggling. You are unique, and so is your experience with breast cancer. How you feel after your diagnosis is completely individual. There are no right or wrong feelings here. Some people who have received a diagnosis at a relatively early stage with a good prognosis can still feel extreme stress. While others learn to appreciate the value of life through their experience with cancer and see it as a great learning experience. However you feel is valid and justified. If you feel like you’re suffering psychologically as a result of your breast cancer, acknowledging and accepting the problem is an important first step. The following symptoms may be signs of anxiety and/or depression if they recur over a long period of time: Irritability, nervousness, and/or tension. Difficulty concentrating. Fatigue, loss of energy, and feelings of exhaustion. Trouble sleeping. Loss of self-esteem. Avoiding social situations and/or social contact. Sadness and helplessness. Thoughts of death or suicide. Feelings of guilt. Doubts about the meaning of life. Finding no joy in living. Individually, these symptoms may not always equal mental illness. For example, fatigue and exhaustion are common side effects of cancer treatments and don’t necessarily mean that you’re depressed. However, try to be mindful of these symptoms and monitor your mental well-being. It helps to acknowledge your feelings and fears. Accepting how you feel will help you to cope better, so be sure not to suppress any of your feelings. How to look after your mental health. Remember, you’re entitled to feel however you’re feeling when living with breast cancer. With this in mind, feel free to share your feelings openly with your loved ones and your healthcare team. Be sure to address your fears and ask for information about therapy procedures and side effects. Open communication can reduce uncertainties and worries and help you deal with breast cancer better. If you feel that your anxiety or depression is becoming too difficult to manage, you can talk to your doctor about the possibility of psycho-oncological support throughout your breast cancer treatment. You’re never alone, and the first step is asking for help. Paying attention to the following factors can also benefit your mental health: Physical activity and nutrition. A healthy lifestyle is important for your physical health and also supports your psychological well-being. Regular physical activity can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can also help release more happy hormones in your body, like serotonin and dopamine. A healthy diet plays an important role, too. Eating well can improve your intestinal flora in the long term, and the intestine is directly related to the psyche. Time. Time may not heal all wounds, but it’s important that you take time to process and accept your breast cancer diagnosis. The physical changes that come with it also require time to accept. You’ll need time to adjust to your new body and come to terms with your body image. Try to avoid setting time expectations for when you need to feel good again. You may still feel uncomfortable even after a full recovery, and that’s absolutely okay too. Distraction. Sometimes, constantly dealing with your situation and feelings is just too much and can cause levels of anxiety and worry to become unbearable. That’s why it’s a great idea to distract yourself from your breast cancer from time to time. A movie night, a board game, or an evening with friends can give your body and mind a rest for a few hours. Why not try out that hobby you always meant to or treat yourself a delicious meal? Distract yourself with some self-love. You deserve it. Resilience. In psychology, the word ‘resilience’ is used to describe the ability to adapt to challenging experiences. Resilience, therefore, plays an important role in dealing with breast cancer. Resilience is a trait that can help you prevent the development of serious mental health issues, like depression, in the long run. The good thing is, that resilience can be learned. Important aspects of resilience include self-responsibility, setting realistic goals, recognizing your own strengths and successes, optimism and self-regulation, a positive social environment, and creating a sense of purpose in your life. Practicing daily mindfulness and gratitude can also have a long-lasting impact on your stress levels and overall well-being. At Sidekick, we recognize the powerful relationship between the mind and the body. You can read more about the positive effects of mindfulness right here. Explore our other articles on breast cancer and find out how to improve your quality of life by engaging in regular physical activity, or discover how to make the most out of your breast cancer check-ups. And remember, it’s okay not to be okay.

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How to Reduce the Effects of Eczema on Body Image, Relationships, and Sex

By Atopic Dermatitis, Emotional support, Featured, Health Conditions, Mindfulness / SelfcareNo Comments

Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and enjoy healthy relationships with their loved ones. For people living with eczema, this can be uniquely challenging. Eczema can impact so many areas of life. Besides chronic dry, itchy skin, people with eczema often find that the condition can severely affect their emotional well-being. Dealing with these effects can interfere with your self-esteem, maintaining a healthy body image, managing relationships, and enjoying sex. It’s not always easy, but there are things you can do to build confidence, trust, and intimacy. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the more taboo topics that you might not necessarily feel comfortable talking to your doctor about. Eczema and the mind-body connection. It’s easy to underestimate the link between mind and body when it comes to our well-being. Mental health needs are often viewed as being totally separate from physical needs. But anyone dealing with a chronic condition like eczema will know that the two are deeply linked. Dr. Anthony Bewley, Consultant Dermatologist at Barts Health NHS, explains that there is even a brain-skin connection: “Nerves in our bodies have neuropeptides that connect the brain to the skin, so it’s not surprising that if you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it may have an effect on your skin.” Equally, we know that living with eczema can cause stress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Poor mental well-being is both a trigger and a side-effect of eczema, meaning the cycle between the two things can loop on repeat. So, how might the mind-body connection specifically affect people living with eczema when it comes to body image, relationships, and sex? Body image. More than one-third of people with eczema say they ‘often’ or ‘always’ feel angry or embarrassed by their appearance because of their condition. If eczema has made you dislike how your skin looks or feels, it can be tough to feel good about yourself. Equally, if eczema has chipped away at your self-esteem, you may struggle to appreciate all the other ways your body is doing well – like pumping 5.5 liters of blood per minute or sending information along nerves at about 400kmph. Relationships. One-third of adults with eczema have reported that their condition has interfered with establishing relationships, with up to one-half avoiding social interactions altogether because of their appearance. Sometimes, the fatigue and irritability that comes with a flare-up can make people with eczema feel withdrawn and disconnected from their friends, family, and loved ones. Sex. Most people consider sex and intimacy a fun and integral part of their partnerships. For people with eczema, sex can also be a source of embarrassment, anxiety, and pain – adding an unwanted layer of complexity to physical encounters. A 2017 study found that more than 80 percent of adults with eczema said their condition affected their sexual behavior. Reducing the effects of eczema on body image, relationships, and sex. Having a healthy body image is about more than liking what you see in the mirror; it’s also about confidence and self-esteem. When you prioritize feeling valued and respected, you’re more likely to think and feel positive, have compassion for yourself and recognize the strengths and qualities that make you attractive and unique. What are some tried and tested ways to build confidence, trust, and intimacy with yourself and your partner? Practice self-love. It can be challenging to be kind to yourself if you’re going through a hard time but slipping into self-loathing isolates both you and your partner. You are much more than your skin condition. People that want to be physically intimate with you are attracted to all the different things that make you who you are. Self-care and self-acceptance can help you receive care and acceptance from others. Practicing self-love and sexual stimulation helps you to accept your body and can have a positive impact on your shared sexual experiences and allow for intimacy when your skin is too painful for sex with a partner. “Doing right by myself gives me the extra boost in self-confidence that I need, not only in terms of dating but in every part of my life, from work to friendship to going to the gym.” Adam, living with eczema. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness practices have been found to positively affect quality of life. Mindfulness is all about being aware of and accepting the present moment. By practicing mindfulness regularly, you’ll be able to identify your eczema triggers and respond to stress in a healthy way. Stress relief can play a significant role in improving your body image and confidence. Meditation and other mindful relaxation techniques can help you reconnect with your inner self, observe the impact eczema has on your self-image, and begin to move away from negative thought patterns. Prioritize sleep. Sleeping to improve your sex life may not make much sense at first, but getting a good night’s rest when sex isn’t on the agenda will help you make the most of the times when it is. Sleep deprivation is one of the most common difficulties eczema can cause. Lack of sleep can have a number of consequences and leave you feeling on edge, less able to cope with stress, and at higher risk of a flare-up. Sleeping well is vital to every cell in your body. It impacts your physical and mental state the following day, regulates the immune system and metabolism, and also reduces the risk of chronic diseases. By paying close attention to the quality of your sleep, you’re more likely to stay on top of your general well-being, leaving more room for spontaneity when the mood strikes you. Track your triggers. Eczema triggers vary from person to person, but the most common include heat, sweat, allergens, emotional stress, and pollution – all of which can set off the itch-scratch cycle. Having the most current information about your eczema and avoiding your triggers will empower you to manage your skin condition more effectively, leaving you with more energy for the people and things that bring you joy. “I didn’t realize how much stress triggered my eczema. When going through stressful situations in my personal life, I was absolutely covered in eczema and couldn’t stop itching. It wasn’t until I made a conscious effort to reduce my stress levels that I saw an improvement.” Molly, living with nummular eczema. Be open and communicative. Consider how being open and honest about your sex life might be beneficial. Does your partner know that eczema affects your sex life? Do they feel empowered to help with eczema concerns during intimacy? Discussing this with them could change things for the better. Keep talking about your concerns, wants, and needs. While you may be worried about what your partner will think when they run their hands over your skin, they might be equally anxious about hurting you. One way to get intimate while alleviating these concerns is to apply emollient cream to each other’s bodies to get to know what you are both comfortable with. Treatment is key. For people with eczema, a crucial part of maintaining a healthy romantic and sex life is seeking the appropriate treatment and establishing a positive healthcare routine. With the right partner, treatment and routines can also become part of your intimate lives together. “We try different bath products to see which ones we like and which don’t trigger an allergic reaction. Taking a bath together does wonders for my skin and my mentality. And it has brought us much closer too.” Abbey, living with nummular eczema. Tracking your symptoms, committing to self-care, and getting the right support delivered with compassion are invaluable when living with a chronic condition. The eczema program from Sidekick is designed to help you reduce stress through daily mindfulness and stress-management techniques. The program also connects you to a health coach and an online community of patients so you can access support whenever you need it. Explore the Atopic Dermatitis program and find your eczema Sidekick today.

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Our Guide to Supporting a Loved One With Eczema

By Atopic Dermatitis, Caregivers, Emotional support, Health Conditions, Mindfulness / SelfcareNo Comments

When providing care to someone living with a skin condition like eczema, it can sometimes be hard to know exactly what they need, especially if you don’t fully understand the condition yourself. We’ve put together a guide to help you support your loved one with eczema. We know it can be tough. That’s why we´re here to help. We’ll talk you through everything you need to know about living with eczema. Your support is invaluable to your loved one, but we know you’ll need a little help sometimes too. Supporting a loved one with eczema. From dealing with physical pain and sleepless nights to having body confidence issues, people living with eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) often have a lot going on. But so can the people who live with them. Eczema caregivers share their loved ones’ highs and help them through their lows. Caregivers also experience the worry, fret, and panic that comes with the condition. We understand that the effects of eczema are not limited to those that live with it. As an eczema caregiver, it’s totally okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes. Supporting a loved one with eczema is difficult. It’s okay if you’re struggling with it. “When my loved one developed really severe eczema, his whole body was covered in
weeping welts which he would constantly rub and scratch. His eczema was so bad people would stare at him and ask what had happened to him. Sometimes we were actually avoided by people, and people would stand at a distance if we were in a queue. This broke my heart as people were making judgments about him without even asking what was wrong. This made me incredibly angry and sad. He was exactly the same as everybody else; he just had really sore skin.” Annabel, eczema caregiver. Many people who support someone with eczema ask themselves: How can I support my loved one who has a condition I haven’t experienced? To help answer this question, we’ll talk you through eczema symptoms and triggers and the best ways to help your loved one deal with them. Holding the hand of your loved one with eczema can really make a difference to their overall
quality of life. So, where to start? The first and most important thing to be aware of is the importance of a healthy and consistent skincare routine. Help your loved one stay on top of things like:
● Moisturizing their skin twice a day, even when it looks and feels good! (This is easier said than done, so your support will be needed)
● Taking shorter showers or baths to avoid skin drying out
● Patting skin dry rather than rubbing with a towel
● Avoiding irritants that are known triggers for a flare-up
Then, make sure you’re aware of the many different symptoms – both physical and emotional – that people with eczema might face. Know the symptoms. Did you know that people who have eczema are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety? It can also be more challenging for people with eczema to focus on their social life, which can lead to problems with friends and family members. Some people with eczema may have body confidence issues that can prevent them from taking part in certain activities, or the symptoms of their eczema might impact their mood and mental wellbeing. These are just some of the broader symptoms people with eczema face that might not be immediately obvious. It’s important to remember that everyone’s eczema is unique. Different things affect different people in different ways, and triggers vary from person to person.Some of the most common symptoms of eczema include:
● Dry and/or itchy skin, which can sometimes appear as red rashes
● Bumps on the skin
● Crusty or flakey skin
● Skin pain
● Oozing skin
● Bleeding skin
If your loved one finds themself giving in to the itch, they may end up stuck in an itch-scratch cycle. This can often lead to:
● Problems sleeping – people with eczema can experience disturbed sleep because of nighttime itching, which can also have knock-on health effects
● Lack of energy – generally feeling more tired – it takes a lot of energy for someone’s skin to constantly have to regenerate
● Lack of productivity at work/school
● Restlessness
● Low self-esteem
● Anxiety
● Depression
Not all eczema is visible, and you might not know how much discomfort a person is in. Some people feel embarrassed to talk about their eczema and how it affects them, so make sure you’re delicate when broaching the subject. Always make an effort to be kind and supportive. Empathy is an essential part of supporting a loved one with eczema. Listen to what they have to say and try to give them as much emotional support as possible. One way to show someone that you understand what they’re going through is by rephrasing
what they’ve said back to them. For example, when your loved one says, “my eczema is really bad at the moment,” try responding with something like, “I’m really sorry to hear that. I
can imagine it’s difficult. Let me know what I can do to help.” You could also try offering them help with day-to-day tasks to make their lives a little easier. A simple act like this can make your loved one feel heard and seen. Also, make an active effort to check on their overall wellbeing – asking them questions shows that you care. Help identify triggers. Eczema is a chronic condition that can’t be cured entirely. Scientists also aren’t sure exactly what causes it because so many factors are at play. However, it is known that genetics play a big role. There are many things that people living with eczema can do to manage their symptoms better. Working with your loved one to identify their eczema triggers will be vital throughout their healthcare journey. A trigger refers to something that causes eczema to flare-up. Sometimes, it can be tricky to identify what triggers or causes eczema, while sometimes, the cause is more obvious. For example, some people are allergic to dust or feathers, and other people are not. Just like we said, everyone’s eczema is unique. By helping your loved one identify what triggers their eczema, you can help them manage their symptoms. Common eczema triggers may include:
● Irritants such as soap, perfume, or cosmetic products
● Environmental factors – for example, cold or dry weather; dampness; pets; pollens,
dust mites, molds, and cigarette smoke
● Stress and stressors
● Sleep deprivation
● Confirmed allergies
● Materials – such as wool, synthetic fabrics, and certain metals- including chromium cobalt, chloride, copper, nickel
● Skin infections
It’s important to remember that even though these things are common reasons for eczema, there are many factors that doctors may be unaware of. Helping your loved one track their symptoms to try and figure out what’s causing an eczema flare-up can be an important preventative measure that can lead to a better quality of life. Be cautious of telling your loved one that they have eczema because of their habits: don’t try and blame someone for the state of their skin – even if you think they’re doing something wrong. Remember that empathy is key to success. Listen to their problems and show them you understand. Sidekick’s Eczema Program can help your loved one identify their eczema triggers and empower them to break the itch-scratch cycle. Make changes around the house. According to Dr. Natasha Harper, “lifestyle factors can strongly influence atopic dermatitis.”
Therefore, “the optimal care of atopic dermatitis is holistic in nature.” This means that lifestyle factors heavily influence eczema and how it affects the body. Making some simple changes around the house can have a huge impact on reducing the symptoms of eczema. Here are some things you can do that might help your loved one
manage their eczema symptoms on a day-to-day basis: Reduce dust levels by replacing carpets and keeping the house clean. In the case of a dust mite allergy, removing carpets can majorly reduce the symptoms of atopic eczema. Carpets gather a lot of dust which can be a major trigger for eczema. If you can’t remove the carpet for any reason, make sure you clean it regularly to reduce exposure to dust. Dust levels can also be reduced by regularly vacuuming or washing any other fabrics which might get dusty, like drapes, the couch, and sheets. Maintain good indoor air quality. Improving inside air quality is also important when living with eczema. Some people find that
their skin can be irritated by hot and dry air (especially when combined with dust). There’s a lot that can be done to adjust the quality of air indoors, such as keeping good
ventilation around the house by regularly opening the windows and letting in the fresh air. A lack of ventilation can also lead to the growth of mold, and mold is a known eczema
trigger. So, be sure to open those windows- even in winter! Remove pets. We know this can be difficult, but pets – especially those with fur and feathers – can be
triggers for people who live with eczema. This is because pet dander (or flakes of dead skin cells) are a common flare-up trigger for people with eczema. Change laundry detergent
If your loved one is dealing with irritation due to detergents, make sure you use a dermatologically proven detergent when doing laundry. Generally speaking, avoid anything
fragranced. The chemicals used to make fragrances often irritate the skin and can lead to eczema flare-ups. Be mindful of the products you use. If you share a bed with someone who has eczema, the products you use to wash your hair and body can affect their skin. Many shampoos contain a chemical called Cocamidopropyl betaine, a known skin irritant for people with eczema. Try changing the products you apply to your hair. Many articles are available online to help you find the best eczema-friendly shampoos.
Practice compassion. Living with an incurable itch and chronic condition is difficult. Naturally, there will be times when your loved one’s eczema will have a big impact on their mood. There may be days when they feel frustrated, down, or anxious. People in a relationship need to accept that their loved one with eczema might – at times – be struggling to find their zen. One of the best ways that you can help is by showing empathy. Talk with them and try to show them that you understand and care. Remind them that they should not be ashamed of their condition or the mood it brings them. Provide support at check-ups. People with eczema, especially if they are stressed or depressed, might be reluctant to visit
a doctor. But a doctor can prescribe steroid creams which can be a great short-term solution for an eczema flare-up. Some people living with eczema might be too embarrassed or scared to go and see their doctor. That’s where you come in. It’s great for someone with eczema to have a loved one holding their hand, reminding them that asking for help is the right thing to do. Join online support groups. There are lots of existing online support groups on social media for people who live with eczema: like this eczema support Facebook Group. People share their stories, experiences, and tips to help with day-to-day life, including new treatments and medicines. Sometimes, it’s good to know that there are others like you who can turn to for help and advice. If you need a Sidekick on your caregiver journey, encourage your loved one to check out the Atopic Dermatitis program from Sidekick Health. The program features educational material to help people living with eczema understand their condition and identify their triggers. It also encourages daily mindfulness practices and medication reminders to help your loved one take back control of their health. Supporting a loved one with eczema can be a challenge, and it’s okay if you sometimes find it hard, stressful, or overwhelming. Your Sidekick is here to help. Read our brochure on the Sidekick Health website or get the app now.

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How to Explain Eczema to Others: A Helpful Communication Guide

By Atopic Dermatitis, Emotional support, Health Conditions, Mindfulness / Selfcare2 Comments

Here you are, meeting a colleague for the first time, starting a new relationship, or simply standing in line at the grocery store. Anyone who lives with eczema knows the pressure to explain your skin condition can feel constant and frustrating. There are still a lot of misconceptions about eczema, and everyone’s experience with it is unique. So, although explaining your eczema can feel like climbing a mountain – it is a relatively unavoidable part of living with the condition. It’s not easy, but there are a few things that can help. We’ve put together a guide on how to explain your experience living with eczema to the people in your life, built on science and informed by people with a similar experience. Why we need to explain and educate. We understand that the burden of explaining eczema to the people around you can feel unwanted and heavy. You’ve likely got enough going on as it is. Responding to questions, correcting misconceptions, and relaying the severity of the condition can feel invasive and take up valuable energy – especially if you or a loved one are dealing with an eczema flare-up. “When my loved one developed really severe eczema, his whole body was covered in weeping welts which he would constantly rub and scratch. Sometimes people would avoid us and stand at a distance if we were in a queue. This broke my heart as people were making judgments about him without even asking what was wrong.” Annabel, eczema caregiver. Talking about the realities of eczema can help reduce these kinds of experiences for people living with it. With more understanding comes better treatment plans, improved quality of life, and more support all-around. Persistent misconceptions. How many times have you been asked if your eczema is contagious? Or felt as though your condition is being dismissed or underestimated as trivial or easy to treat? These are just some of the most common misconceptions surrounding eczema. Some misconceptions are so recurrent that even those living with eczema believe them. Researchers from the University of Southampton in the U.K. found that people with eczema tend to incorrectly view it as a short-term condition. This means that they underestimate the need for long-term treatment and seek an instant cure for their eczema instead. You and your eczema are unique. Everybody’s experience with eczema is different, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Some people develop symptoms soon after birth and live with them well into adulthood. In contrast, others may begin to experience eczema in adolescence and find that it fades over time. Stressors and triggers – such as cigarette smoke, pollen, food allergies, soaps, asthma, and hay fever – vary from person to person, along with medical advice, treatment plans, and their ongoing effectiveness. Your journey with eczema is entirely unique to you. Support is vital. Eczema can have far-reaching consequences for those living with the condition, severely affecting sleep, relationships, work, and overall wellbeing. Effective communication and support are vital to making life with eczema manageable and enjoyable. Dry, itchy skin can make everyday tasks a challenge. Having an informed network around you will mean that loved ones are better equipped to support you, from bathing the kids to doing the dishes or pitching in with meal prep. “The best thing anyone can do is understand that things take me longer to do and that my mind is willing, but sometimes my body isn’t able.”
Melissa O’Neill, living with eczema. How to tackle the conversation. If you find yourself in that familiar place, explaining your eczema to someone new, here are some tried and tested mechanisms to help you approach the conversation with a little more ease and confidence. Start with the basics. More often than not, people are wondering some of the same things. Clearing up the basics can make for a quick and easy chat. Next time you’re asked a question about your eczema, try something like this; “Eczema is a chronic, long-term condition; it is much more than just itchy skin; the cause is unknown, and there is currently no cure; and no, it is not contagious.” Then, it’s up to you if you want to go into more detail or revisit the conversation later. Humour can help. Eczema is no laughing matter, but humor can reduce stress and ease the situation. Sometimes, if you feel up to it, meeting an unwarranted comment or prying eyes head-on with a lighthearted remark can break the tension and soften the blow.
“It’s always coming back, and it sort of comes back with a vengeance, and it’s just like, ah, it’s like the bad guy in a movie who just doesn’t die.” Dua, living with eczema. Don’t scrimp on the details. If someone you care about has asked about your eczema, it’s likely that they really want to understand how it affects you. Talking about specific areas of skin, scaly patches, and skin infections might seem like a step too far, but opening up about the realities of living with eczema helps others to understand the severity of the condition as well as how best to support their loved ones. Refer to pop culture. Eczema hasn’t featured heavily in Hollywood movies (so far!), but a few influential figures are working to raise awareness on the big screen. Pointing friends and family in the direction of other representations of eczema can take the pressure off you and help further normalize the condition. In the HBO series “The Night Of”, the main character, Jack Stone, suffers from a case of eczema. It affects his feet so severely it overtakes every moment of his life outside of work and becomes a prominent part of his on-screen persona and the series’ overall storyline. Help them to help you. Given that no two cases of eczema are the same, it is well worth sharing what you personally find most challenging, how you avoid triggers or prevent flares, the side effects you struggle with, and which, if any, home remedies you find effective. That way, the people around you can be much more effective and deliberate in their support. You are not alone. Some 31.6 million people in the U.S. have some form of eczema; that’s just over 10 percent of the entire population, so the person you are talking to has likely experienced eczema before or knows someone who has. “I used to feel a little self-conscious having to explain my eczema when someone asked, but then you realize how many people know someone who deals with it.” Isiah, living with eczema. Knowing your boundaries, committing to self-care, and getting the right support is invaluable when living with a chronic condition. Including a health app like Sidekick in your treatment program grants you access to an online community of coaches to find support whenever you need it.

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Break the Eczema Sleep Cycle With These Simple Steps

By Atopic Dermatitis, Health Conditions, Mindfulness / Selfcare, Sleep5 Comments

The body is a wonderful thing. Between waking up and going to bed, it allows us to work, eat, exercise, learn, think, and perform many other physical and mental tasks. So, it should come as no surprise that sleep, and the right amount of sleep, is essential for us to function throughout our daily lives and maintain optimal health. However, as people with eczema will know, getting quality sleep can be tricky, to say the least. A nagging itch wakes you up during the night because of a flare-up, and you can’t resist the urge to scratch – sound familiar? This disturbed sleep can impact your ability to treat your eczema effectively the next day and disrupt your regular treatment plan – and there you have it: your vicious circle. Unfortunately, this vicious circle may continue if your sleep doesn’t improve. But don’t worry; with a few steps added to your daily routine, good sleep doesn’t have to be a far-off dream. How does eczema affect sleep? Sleep is essential for a good quality of life, but if you’re having problems catching enough Zs, your eczema could be to blame – here’s why. Body temperature. In the evening, melatonin is secreted in the brain to prepare your body for sleep. At night, your core body temperature drops; and during this process, the skin on your hands and feet gets warmer, making you feel itchier. Natural body processes aren’t the only thing bringing on the heat. If your bedding’s too thick, it could be preventing your body from cooling down, and being too warm equals itchiness. And while it might be a relaxing part of your bedtime routine, taking a hot shower or bath before sleep will both dry out your skin and increase your body temperature, only making the itching worse. Skin moisture. Dry skin can make eczema worse, and it’s likely that by the time you’ve gone to bed, the moisturizer you applied during the day has worn off. Sweating can also make your skin dry out, so if you’re too warm in your bed and sweating, the dry-out may bring on that dreaded itch. Itch, scratch, itch, scratch… Eczema symptoms are never easy to deal with, especially when it comes to itching. Getting caught in the endless spiral of an itch-scratch episode can affect your mood and, you guessed it, disrupt your sleep. Also, humans tend to scratch in their sleep, meaning people with eczema may unknowingly aggravate an already-sore area of skin and start another itch-scratch cycle. Why is sleep so important when you have eczema? There are a few types of eczema, but for people living with any form of this skin condition, sleep is vital for many reasons – here are a few: Treatment. Tiredness can affect how well you stick to a consistent and effective treatment plan. Hormones. Sleep is essential to regulate our hormones and metabolism to keep mood swings and food cravings at bay. Healthy skin barrier function. Your skin needs optimum sleep to repair eczema irritations during the night; unfortunately, a lack of sleep can disrupt your skin barrier function.
Reduced stress. Living with eczema can be stressful, so adding poor sleep into the mix is a sure-fire way to increase stress levels. When we don’t get the rest we need, our ability to manage stress is impaired. We want you to feel your best so you can manage your eczema as well as possible. How can you improve your sleep? Keep your bedroom cool. Whether it’s by investing in lighter bedding or keeping the window open during the night, cooler temperatures will prevent you from getting too hot or sweating.
A chillier temperature will also prevent dust mites. Dust mites can trigger eczema outbreaks, so wash your bedding weekly and vacuum regularly to keep those pesky little bugs at bay. The best bedroom temperature for sleep is around 65°F or 18.3°C and may vary from person to person. Use wet wraps. According to the National Eczema Association’s medical advice, “wet wrap therapy can work wonders to rehydrate and calm the skin and help topical medications work better.” Moisturize before sleep. To prevent your skin from drying out during the night, moisturize your body about an hour before you go to bed to allow the cream to sink in. Look for a fragrance-free moisturizer with high oil content as it will be more effective at keeping moisture in and irritants out. Prioritize your bedtime routine. Relieving your eczema symptoms requires healthy sleep, and healthy sleep requires a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine. The body’s circadian rhythm is sensitive to light, diet, and exercise. For optimal sleep, try incorporating the following tips into your night-time routine: Read a book or listen to soothing music. Try not to eat heavy meals too close to bedtime and avoid caffeine. Painful as it might sound to coffee fanatics, you need to sip your last cup at least six hours before you plan to go to bed to avoid sleep disturbance. Some people break down caffeine more slowly, so may need to stop drinking coffee even earlier and stick to a maximum of 2-3 cups per day.
Blue light before sleep is a big no-no: smartphones, tablets, TVs, and laptops – all these devices can hinder your sleep quality if used within an hour or two of going to bed. If you have a child with eczema, this also means no video games before bedtime! Meditation. Not only can meditation help improve your sleep quality, but it can also reduce stress. To really get the benefits, try meditating every day before bed, even if it’s just for ten minutes. If you’re new to meditation, our Sidekick eczema program features mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques that will help you take back control of your health. From breathing exercises to daily meditation, your Sidekick can help you master the art of mindfulness and improve your sleep, stress levels, and overall quality of life. Your Sidekick can also guide you to create healthy daily habits that last, ultimately giving you the power to maintain a regular treatment plan and live with eczema in the most stress-free way possible. According to UK-based dermatologist Dr. Natasha Harper: “The program is enjoyable to use and full of useful information, and I believe it will be hugely beneficial for patients.”
If you’re living with eczema and would like to see what Sidekick can do for you, check out the Atopic Dermatitis program from Sidekick Health today. Sweet dreams.

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a green and yellow graphic symbolizing eczema stress

How to Manage Your Eczema Stress and Find Peace

By Atopic Dermatitis, Health Conditions, Mindfulness / Selfcare, Stress4 Comments

“I’m so stressed.” “This is so stressful.” “My stress levels are off the charts.” – and so on. You only need to be human to have uttered one or all of these statements at one point in your life. While short-term stress can be a good thing, a booster to inspire and motivate you, it can quickly become something that hinders your quality of life – especially for people with skin conditions like eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. What’s the link between eczema and stress? When humans experience stress, the body responds by entering fight-or-flight mode, which releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol from the adrenal glands to prepare the body for what’s coming. So far, so good. Cortisol is a great ally when the body is in balance. However, if we produce too much cortisol, the immune system becomes overactivated, which unsettles the balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory forces in the body. This imbalance can cause an inflammatory skin reaction, like eczema. Stressful situations can unleash these itchy flare-ups, which, in turn, lead to more stress. Unfortunately, people with eczema are particularly vulnerable to this inflammatory response, and they often find themselves stuck in an itch-scratch cycle that’s difficult to break. The result? Possible sleep problems, anxiety, and even depression. The exact relationship between eczema and mental health is not entirely clear, but a recent survey conducted by the National Eczema Association showed that more than 30% of people with atopic dermatitis were diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety. The good news is that stress and the vicious circle it may cause can be managed with better habits, patience, and consistency over time. How can you manage your stress? Learning to manage stress is so important because, left undealt with, it can lead to more serious mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Molly, who lives with nummular eczema, says: “I didn’t realize how much stress triggered my eczema. When I was going through stressful situations in my personal life, I was absolutely covered in eczema and couldn’t stop itching. It wasn’t until I made a conscious effort to reduce my stress levels that I saw an improvement.” Here are some ways that you can help yourself reduce stress and hopefully keep severe eczema outbreaks to a minimum. Know your triggers. Sometimes we don’t know what stresses us out until it’s too late, and our hearts are pumping out of our chest, our palms are sweating, and our minds are racing. But if you can learn to identify your eczema triggers, you’re giving yourself a much better chance of either avoiding them or responding to them in a healthy way. While you might be familiar with your physical triggers, such as food allergies, certain fabrics, weather, temperature, humidity, skin oiliness, etc., it might be harder for you to pinpoint your mental triggers. To get on top of this, really listen to your body and learn to recognize when the flutter of stress is coming. Try keeping a daily trigger journal to help you keep track of life events, and when your eczema symptoms worsen – there might be a link! Try mindfulness. According to the Cambridge dictionary, ‘mindfulness’ means “the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm.” These days it’s easy to get caught up in the past, the future, and endless worries about both, but mindfulness requires you to stay present. This might be easier said than done, but if you feel like a stressful situation is on the horizon, take a few minutes to breathe deeply and focus on your body. Mastering this will really help you develop a mind-body connection, something that will come in handy when stress is looming. The eczema program from Sidekick Health can help you practice mindfulness and introduce you to other daily habits that are useful for identifying and managing stress triggers. Medical professionals love the app, too; London-based Consultant Dermatologist, Professor Anthony Bewley, says: “Patient-centric education and support programs are immensely important for the holistic management of patients with the dermatological disease, especially programs which recognize the importance of patients’ psychological wellbeing. The app developed by Sidekick is a great way of empowering patients through the app’s programs and modules.”
Stay healthy. When we’re stressed, it’s totally common to comfort eat, drink more alcohol, or ramp up the caffeine. However, while all of these feel good in the moment, they can all lead to more stress, especially if you get itchy skin as a result. Plus, they won’t do your health any good. Instead, stay hydrated, feed yourself nourishing food and try to avoid too many coffees because caffeine is known to increase anxiety. Try to stay below 300-400mg of caffeine per day which is about 3-4 cups of coffee. Get outside. Research shows that being outside can reduce stress and anxiety. Outdoor activities such as walking, biking, swimming, and hiking can improve your mood and self-esteem. Physical activity also gets your blood circulation going, which increases the release of brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins which can improve your overall mood. Find a support group
Living with eczema can sometimes feel lonely, especially if you don’t have any family or friends who can relate to your condition. Whether online or in-person, finding a support group where you can talk with others living with eczema could give you feelings of comfort, solidarity, and “finally, someone who understands!” Talk to a professional. While these tips can help reduce stress, if you or a loved one continue to experience feelings of low mood, we recommend that you seek the help of a healthcare provider. Learning to take control of stress and understanding how to manage it takes practice, which is why we encourage you to check out the Sidekick Health eczema program. Stress management tools are central parts of our program, and, ultimately, we want these tools to become second nature to you and your wellbeing.

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