Recognizing and Reducing Stress with Urticaria
Learn how managing your emotional response can help you better manage chronic hives
If you have chronic hives, or urticaria, you probably already know that when you are under stress, your symptoms either appear or worsen. Doctors have increasingly looked to study the relationship between emotional stress and skin conditions. One study, which appeared in Dermatology Times, examined the relationship between stress and chronic hives. Josie Howard, M.D., a psychiatrist in private practice and clinical instructor of psychiatry and dermatology at the University of California, stated that, “external stressors plus cognitive, behavioral and social stressors have been shown to play a significant role in the intensity of itch.” She also explains that it is not unusual for hives to appear after a major life stressor and that those with chronic hives have “limited stress management skills.”
Learning to recognize stress when it occurs and finding ways to manage your stress can be used together to help you manage your chronic hives.
Recognizing the signs of stress
We all experience stress at some time in our lives. In small amounts, stress can help you. For example, stress might keep you alert when studying for a test, or give you a boost of adrenaline when faced with a deadline. But stress is also a warning sign that something is wrong. It can set off a number of physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms that make it more difficult to deal with a situation. When you ignore the signs of stress, it may in some cases, grow stronger and can cause you to break out in hives.
The following is a list of some common symptoms of stress according to the American Psychological Association.
- Physical - headaches, head and neck pain, stomachaches, rapid heartbeat, chest pains, fatigue, dry mouth
Immune - increased infections or colds
Emotional - irritability, short temper, anxiety
Cognitive - memory problems, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, making poor decisions
In addition, you might have a hard time falling asleep or wake up often. You might find you don’t have an appetite or might overindulge in food as a way to comfort yourself.
Everyone reacts to stress differently. You might experience only a few of these signs or you might notice that more signs develop, especially when you don’t address your stress. Paying attention to your body’s reaction to stress can help you address it immediately, instead of waiting for stress cause you to break out in hives.
If you have chronic stress or are experiencing symptoms that interfere with your life, or are causing frequent outbreaks of hives, it might be beneficial to talk to your doctor about medical treatments for stress. There are also a number of lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce overall stress.
Add exercise to your daily routine.
Starting with 10 minutes of exercise a day can lower your overall feelings of stress. The hormones produced by your exercise session can help you better deal with stressful situations, even long after you have finished exercising.
Practice relaxation techniques.
Using methods such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation and mindfulness techniques can increase your ability to deal with stressful situations as well as lower your body’s reaction when stress does appear.
Find a social outlet.
Engaging in social activities (in person, not online) can help reduce stress. Talking about challenging situations can release hormones that reduce stress. When feeling stressed, call a friend or involve yourself in a social situation to help yourself feel better.
Take care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself means giving yourself the tools you need to better manage stress in your life. Take steps to make sure you are eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep. When you eat unhealthy foods or go through your day on just a few hours of sleep, your ability to deal with stress decreases.
Discover what helps you relax.
Some people find it relaxing to engage in a hobby, others find spending time with a pet, drawing, painting or writing is helpful. Experiment with different activities, paying attention to how you feel after participating. Then, make sure to include time each day for those activities that make you feel more relaxed.
You might also want to take the time to review your priorities and the sources of stress in your life. Are there things you can do to reduce or eliminate stressful activities? Pay attention to when your stress appears, and then make a list of ways you can change the situation or your reaction to the situation. For example, you might decide to look for a new job, or, decide you need to change your perception of your job. Working with a cognitive behavioral therapist may also help you change your thought process and bring more balance to your life.
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