Meeting the Flare With Self-Compassion
I imagine we can all agree that a flare-up can bring forward a variety of emotions – irritation, anger, fear, anxiety, and many more. Rarely does it deliver a peaceful easy feeling, one that I would gladly welcome with open arms.
Eczema is the enemy
For someone who has been in a chronic inflammatory state for the past two years, it has definitely rattled my nervous system creating an ongoing fight or flight response. This has, for sure, challenged most of my waking days and sleepless nights. It disrupts my energy because let’s face it, I haven’t wanted to befriend what I have made out to be the enemy.
An emotional enemy
I had been greeting the flares as an enemy, wanting to rid them like a "hot potato," leaving me emotionally upset, better known as, I’m upset because...I’m uncomfortable, I’m itching like crazy, I can’t dress how I want, I can’t eat an ice cream cone on a 90-° day, I have to wrap myself up like a mummy to go outside, etc., etc. Maybe you can relate to this?
What word best describes your toughest days with eczema?
Eczema is a snowballing tornado
As it is often said, our beliefs create our thoughts, our thoughts create our emotions, and our emotions create our behaviors. It’s easy to head down the road of frustration due to all the “I can'ts" swirling in the tornado of misery and not being able to be still in the eye of the storm. Sometimes, often, many times, it’s tempting to be seduced by the storm, finding it very challenging to allow for the pain, both physical and emotional.
Escaping the storm
Escaping oneself and disassociating from our bodies can be very attractive at a time like this. Frequently, it can become an automatic reaction in attempts just to survive the day. Loneliness and isolation, even self-loathing can be the only company we keep during these dark times. At a time when we could use kindness, self-compassion, and comforting, do we give that to ourselves as we would a good friend?
Mindful self-compassion and eczema
The practice of mindful self-compassion (MSC) has become an extraordinary elixir. It has the ability to nurture and make us more resilient. Through self-compassion, we become an inner ally instead of an inner enemy and we learn to speak to ourselves like a good friend.
Mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness
Although a simple way to think about self-compassion is treating yourself as you would treat a good friend, the more complete explanation involves three elements that we bring to bear and can be especially supportive during a flare-up: mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness.
- Mindfulness means being open to the reality of the present moment. It counters the tendency to avoid painful thoughts, emotions, and sensations. It allows us to face the truth of our experience, even when it’s unpleasant.
- Common humanity is when we remember that pain is part of the shared human experience, however, every moment of suffering is transformed into a moment of connection with others.
- Self-kindness is offering ourselves warmth and unconditional acceptance, in which we are supportive and encouraging, aiming to protect ourselves from harm.
A gentle touch
The quintessential self-compassion question ultimately is, “What do I need?” To enhance our sense of self-compassion, we can also apply a gentle touch, if that feels comfortable. Holding a hand or both over your heart or even somewhere on your skin, offering love to the places that might hurt. Touch is an amazing support and a source available to us at any time. It offers a kind way to change how we relate to ourselves and how we cope with flare-ups.
How to practice self-compassion with eczema
So the practice looks something like this: When you are in a flare or feeling discomfort in your body or mind, you might offer yourself particular words of kindness and support that you need to hear during the difficulty. Some options might be~
- “This is a moment of suffering”
- “This is stressful”
- “This hurts"
- “Suffering is a part of life"
- “I’m not alone”
- “This is how others feel who struggle with this”
- “May I be kind to myself”
- “May I accept myself as I am"
- “May I be patient”
- “May I live with ease”
What would you say to someone else?
If you can’t find the right words, imagine that a close friend or loved one is having the same experience as you. What would you say to them? What simple message would you like to impart to your friend, from your heart? Then see if you can apply that same message to yourself. ❤
Self-compassion, being kind to ourselves no matter what is happening in our lives, is a human capacity that changes everything. It is the most generous gift you can give yourself!
Have you shared your eczema story with us?