We’re often quick to address issues relating to our physical health, whether it’s a mouth ulcer or a headache – but when it comes to our mental health, we have a tendency to put things off.
What a lot of people don’t realise is the direct effect mental stresses such as anxiety and depression can have on our physical wellbeing, particularly with regards to our skin.
Many skin complaints, including eczema, rosacea and acne, flare in tandem with our heightened emotions.
As an urticaria sufferer Pai’s founder, Sarah, found that her condition worsened when she was stressed or over-tired.
We’ve also spoken to many customers who have had healthy skin all their lives but suddenly develop chronic conditions such as psoriasis after experiencing trauma, grief and other changes to their mental health.
Although skin issues can sometimes seem secondary to the emotions we’re experiencing, they can pile on top of feelings of diminished self confidence and stress.
As annoying as flare ups can be, they’re sometimes the physical reminder we need to take time to care for our mental health!
Why is this?
‘Our mind and body are very much connected’ says mind detox therapist Sandy Newbigging in the Metro. ‘When we are sad, our eyes produce tears and when we’re anxious, we get butterflies. These are everyday physical reactions to a mental stimulus’.
As the body’s biggest organ, the skin is the site of millions of tiny nerve-endings that send messages to your brain. Conversely, the brain also sends messages back, causing the skin to play out our psychological peaks and troughs.
Some of these effects can be biologically proven – acne flares, for example, can stem from increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which encourages oil production and leads to blemishes.
Others are more intangible – eczema sufferers often ‘habit’ scratch under stress, which in turn makes skin itchier and leads to a cycle in which the eczema becomes worse and worse.
How can I manage this?
Maintaining a healthy state of mind can really help to lower the severity and frequency of flare-ups.
Here are a few tips for managing mental health:
Sleep – tiredness and lack of energy are major contributors to stress, depression and anxiety. If you’re one of those people who count tomorrow’s tasks when you should be counting sheep, keep a notepad by your bed to jot down niggling thoughts.
Time out – Remember to work to live, and not the other way around. Take regular breaks where possible and make time for calming activities such as yoga and walking.
Exercise – Exercise reduces the release of chemicals that cause stress. Though high-energy sports can be a good outlet for pent up frustration, simple yoga and meditation exercises relax the mind and help to calm the skin.
If feelings of low mood, anxiety or stress become more persistent, it might be time to visit your GP or consult Mind’s resources for advice.