How I Handle Itching In The Moment
Nothing induces more panic than a person with eczema starting to feel an itchwave come upon them! Here is my step-by-step process that I go through whenever I feel itchy to help me deescalate the sensation as well as the potential aftermath of scratching and breaking my skin barrier. Hope that this breakdown of my itch management process helps you have a template for what you can go through to save your skin in the moment. And, of course, feel free to alter or adjust anything to make this recovery process your own. Ok, here we go!
First, I close my eyes and do a deep exhale. This is so that in case anyone is around me, I am not distracted by their reactions or have anything else to worry about other than my own body and sensations. If they don't want to see you going through this, they can move. In the moment, you’ve got to think, “I have to take care of business for me right now.”
Next, I continue to exhale until the itchiness subsides. Sometimes I even find that I am exhaling in the same kind of rhythm and pace that I might be scratching if I was not paying attention to my breath and doing my best to remain as calm as possible.
Have a clear mind
Many times, the above two steps are all I need to do for lower-level itch sensations. But if that’s not enough, I make a conscious effort not to have any thoughts. Literally no judgments one way or another. I'm not trying to cheer or coach myself. And I'm also making sure not to put myself down or worry about it either. Both require effort and the strain of being a cheerleader or a downer is stressful. So I let it all go. I let go of the need to react to myself. I just am. I just let myself be where I am. I'm in the moment with my eyes closed exhaling and relaxing as much as possible.
Relieving the itching sensation
I'm conserving my energy for de-escalation and imagining that every exhale is me letting go of the itchiness. I imagine the itchy sensation coming out of my mouth and my nose and this visualization is often very comforting and gives me a greater sense of control.
If the itchiness is still lingering at this point, I will start to growl or sing or do some kind of vocal release to enhance the exhalations with more power. Sometimes I do say things like, “This is really itchy,” just to acknowledge the truth. But I do not dwell or linger on any kind of negative thoughts. Again, it’s all about release and kind of riding the wave of the itchiness like how a surfer rides waves in the ocean. I'm just feeling it all out and being in the moment with myself, relaxed yet vigilant.
Gentle skin stimulation
If it still continues on, I might start to touch my skin but in a gentle way. This may take the form of rubbing my palm over the itchy area. Possibly gently grazing the itchy area with the back of my nail or possibly pinching it. But be careful of how strongly you pinch because it can cause bruising if done too hard. This might be something to do for parts of your body that you can cover easily, but maybe try to avoid it if it's on your neck or face. And while this lighter form of skin stimulation is happening I'm still exhaling, growling, not judging myself, and doing vocal release of some sort still imagining that every release of my breath is releasing the itchiness more and more.
If I still feel uncomfortably itchy, I now start to coach myself through it. So I might say comforting things to myself like, “This is just temporary.” or I might try to fake it til I make it by saying, “This is a relaxing experience.” And this is far from the truth in the moment, but sometimes the ridiculousness of the situation coupled with this self-coaching phrase makes me laugh because it's really not a relaxing experience but I'm really trying to make it such through sheer willpower and open-mindedness. Because who says life has to be only one way? It COULD become a relaxing experience. Eventually....
In my head or out loud
And I appreciate my own efforts to comfort myself in the moment. By the way, laughing is another great form of vocal release and breathwork at the same time. And sometimes this self-talk is actually done out loud as well as in my mind. Many times I do find that I really can fake it until I do make it my reality. You don't know until you try.
Finally, as a last resort, if I still feel itchy after all these efforts, I stop making an effort and I go to sleep. I quite literally take a nap which also effortlessly forces me to do deep breath work and exhalations. Although it's not the best position for your back, I sleep on my stomach just so that I have my arms and hands pinned at my side and make it harder for them to reach whatever area is itchy. If the itchy part is on the back of your body then you might as well sleep on your back for the same reasons mentioned above. You get the idea.
Learning from the community
I truly believe that you can never stop learning and being in this community of eczema survivors, I'm constantly learning new things, ideas, and techniques to relieving and managing eczema itchiness. What's your favorite and most effective method for reducing the itch or at least reducing the potential damage to your skin from scratching? Comment below with your thoughts and tips! Good luck!
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