Skin Versus Stress: Stop Beating Yourself Up
Friday, August 22 2014 Jennifer Aline Graham
Even though we don’t want to admit it – the summer is slowly coming to an end. Students are taking over local Targets, jobs that had a summer vacation are starting back up and the season is slowly changing. Some people see the changing of seasons as being an annoying and stressful time to handle (especially if those people never want the summer to end).
Change is not always easy to grab onto and ride out calmly. For those who are ending summer jobs, financial burdens could quickly put nerves into overload. Money isn’t the only change that causes stress. Just the idea of the summer routine being disrupted can easily affect an individual who is struggling with mental illness.
That disruption could create overwhelming emotions and lead to self-harm as a coping skill, one we know to be unsafe.
Stress physically beats you up. You may begin to lose sleep and get bags under your eyes. Some people break out when severe anxiety takes over and weight gain and loss can become a problem as well. All of these side effects can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining when dealing with change. However, we tend to beat ourselves up just as much when dealing with difficulties – especially those who self-harm.
Do Not Let Stress Physically Attack You
As I’ve discussed in many other blogs, even though I stopped cutting over almost six years ago, I still have some self-injurious behaviors I do without realizing it. I have small bumps on my skin and pick them constantly without meaning to. My hangnails are absolutely horrendous and I tend to pick at noticeable scabs. These are things I’ve tried for years to give up and when I realize I am doing it, I instantly get mad at myself. However, we all know how difficult it is to break bad habits or addictions – not easy at all.
Being I am in the process of changing jobs, packing my current apartment and moving to a new one, all within two weeks, my stress level has skyrocketed. It has been brought to my knowledge from those around me (mostly my mother), that I’ve been picking my skin and biting my hangnails much more than usual. My mother tends to be the one to yell at me when she sees me doing these things and even though it drives me insane, I’m glad she does it. I’ve never connected my anxiety to these habits and even though it is absolutely possible, as it is for many people, I’m realizing now that I too must be in that category.
We beat ourselves up, physically, without meaning to and we may simply see it as us having anxious quirks. However, we need to take those anxious quirks more seriously than we may feel we need to. For those who haven’t purposely self-harmed in years, just seeing extra marks on your skin from anxious picking or seeing a bleeding hangnail could bring you back to an unsafe place.
Even though these behaviors are not being done in the same light as years passed, it’s key that we work to stop them. I know I don’t want any unneeded scabs and I know that when scabs are there, it will be hard for me not to attack them. By recognizing how we react to stressors, we can work on replacing them with safer coping skills. It’s tough, but positive change is possible.