We collect habits throughout life. They drive our behavior and determine many of the things we do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, at-least one of your habits is likely a bad one. A bad habit drains your energy, reduces the amount of pleasure you obtain from life and ultimately has a negative impact on your health.
Some bad habits may be a source of chronic stress, others may impact immune function, while others may have a direct negative impact on your skin. Accordingly, recognizing bad habits and addressing them can be an essential part of the healing process.
Common Bad Habits in Skin Disease
The number of possible bad habits a person can have is limitless. There are, however, some specific bad habits which appear to be more common amongst individuals suffering with a chronic skin condition.
This includes broad habits such as:
- Over reliance on internet for information regarding their skin condition
- Overindulgence in sedentary activities
- Excessive amount of time indoors and restricted sunlight exposure
And more specific ones like:
- Obsession with inspection of the skin (mirror time)
- Constant scratching and picking of the skin
- A troubled relationship with food
If these are some of your habits, reversing them may hold tremendous value and may be an important step in your recovery progress. And as mentioned previously, the first step to reversing bad habits is understanding and acknowledging them.
Rethink Your Reliance on the Internet for Medical Information
The majority of health websites make money from advertising and need large audiences to drive revenues. As a result, quality is often sacrificed for quantity. This results in poorly researched content being published and distributed.
The poorly researched content phenomenon described above is extremely common and happens all the time. Even reputable newspapers and journals have fallen victim to it. So how does a regular person protect themselves from false information?
Essentially, there are two obvious two choices:
- Completely stop relying on online medical information
- Use critical thinking rules to analyze the information
But because the internet is such a convenient way to obtain information, the first option is not very practical. The second option is clearly the more realistic method for approaching online information.
This means that we simply need to be more aware of the stuff we read and always question the information presented to us. Look for facts, think about the writer’s intentions, and when seeking health related information make sure the evidence is clearly presented (references, studies, etc.).
Investigate relevant information
Some websites simply dump random links into the references section of their articles. Try to verify the references and see if they are actually relevant to the information being discussed.
Stop Sitting and Start Moving
A skin condition is often a very visual and noticeable issue. As a result, individuals effected by a chronic skin condition can become socially withdrawn and begin to fear interaction with others. The end result of this, is that these individuals end up spending increasing amounts of time at home and indoors.
Unfortunately, this increase in sedentary behaviors can have a myriad of unwanted health consequences and could result in general suppression of the immune system. This in-turn can have a negative impact on the state of the skin and perhaps even lead to depression.
To curb the negative effects of sedentary behavior, we need to get moving. And here are some ideas to get you started:
- Restrict the amount of daily television watching
- If your work at a computer, take frequent breaks
- Make dynamic exercise a part of your day
- Try to find a hobby that involves extended amounts of physical activity
- Take the stairs at each opportunity
- Walk to the store instead of driving
Each small step in any of these areas will not only gradually improve your immune system stability, but also help curb any lingering depression and stress you may have. The key thing to remember is that small actions can lead to big changes.
Limit Time Indoors and Get Your Fix of Sunshine
Vitamin D is essential to competent immune system function and overall health. Most humans depend on sunlight exposure to satisfy their requirements for Vitamin D. As a result, obtaining adequate sunlight exposure should be a top priority for anyone affect by a chronic health condition.
Unfortunately, having a visible skin condition often causes fear of social interaction and results in increased time spent indoors. This leads to a depletion of Vitamin D levels and reduced immune function.
You must overcome this natural tendency and force yourself to get outdoors to soak up some sun. Make it a habit to get at least 15 minutes of sunlight each day. Take the time to relax and simply enjoy the world around you.
Restrict Mirror Time
Constant inspection of your skin can be addictive and has the ability to become a significant source of chronic stress . At the same time, constant examination of the skin may also result in excessive picking and physical interference with the skin’s natural healing process.
Reducing the amount of mirror time may lessen your level of anxiety, self-consciousness and restrict the self-inflected damage you may be doing to your skin.
Though it might be difficult to ditch this habit at first, here are some tips to get your started:
- Your light source can make all the difference (bright white light can over-emphasis skin issues)
- Refrain from using magnifying mirrors, they tend to blow things out of proportion
- Perform your skin care routine away from a mirror
In any case, just remember that checking the mirror carries no benefit and is likely only making things worse. So, stop constantly checking that mirror and establish a more positive self image.
Reduce Constant Scratching and Self Inflicted Damage
Though scratching and picking may feel good and provide a sense of relief, it can cause significant skin barrier damage and actually help spread infection . The damage triggers irritation, causing further scratching and picking. And this is how a viscous cycle recognized as one of main features of atopic dermatitis [7, 8] becomes established.
Unfortunately stopping this vicious cycle can be difficult as there are a variety of factors which drive its progression. In general, the factors can be divided into two main categories:
- Psychological – scratching has become a conditioned behavior and various external triggers (such as stressful situations, anxiety, visual cues, etc.) can be a trigger
- Cutaneous – natural microbial activity taking place on the skin can interact with the immune system and cause the sensation of itch
And since there is usually a psychological component involved, reducing the itch may not solely depend on resolving the topical problem.
To break the habit you must first become aware of your natural tendency to scratch and then learn to restrain your behavior. This in turn, should lead to a reduction of the itch-scratch cycle, improvements of your skin condition and less itch.
The itch-scratch cycle is a very real problem
In some instances, the itch-scratch cycle can be so intense that it may lead to bleeding, open wounds, and permanent skin damage. And in some aggressive cases of chronic eczema, psychotropic drugs have been successfully used to control the cycle, resulting in clearance of cutaneous (skin) manifestations .
Reconsider Your Self Diagnosed Food Issues
A common belief among a large number of individuals affected by skin disease is that possible food allergies may be at the core of their skin issues. Accordingly, many people turn to food elimination/restriction in an attempt to isolate a specific problematic food item.
In some cases this process can be rewarding and result in clearance of their skin issues. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, it can send the individual on a stressful and confusing journey which results in a unhealthy relationship with food and may actually get in the way of proper diagnosis and treatment.
Your mind and your beliefs carry immense power
If you convince yourself you are allergic to a certain food, you could potentially condition yourself to exhibit the exact symptoms of a real allergy .
The truth is, food allergies are rare and their existence is commonly blown out of proportion by popular press and alternative health care practitioners . But if you can convince yourself to associate your skin symptoms to specific foods you may be creating a viscous cycle of fear, stress and further progression of your skin issues.
It’s easy to get stuck searching for that one food that is causing your seborrheic dermatitis and perhaps it’s time to rethink your approach. If you really do believe you have a food allergy (or intolerance) consider seeking medical assistance and undergo food allergy testing.
This section reviews various habits commonly encountered in skin disease and discussed how they may be preventing the healing process. Key actions items include:
- Avoid blindly relying on the internet for medical information
- Question the information you encounter and seek evidence
- Reduce sedentary activities
- Increase physical activity and get moving
- Increase amount of time spent outdoors
- Increase sunlight exposure
- Avoid constant inspection of the skin in the mirror
- Avoid scratching and picking as much as possible
- Reconsider your relationship with food and test beliefs