Managing stress for parents

This section will look at:

  • How do I know if I’m stressed?
  • Things you can do to manage stress
  • Relaxation techniques to help with stress
Triggers Graphic Stress

Stress and eczema

Most families would agree that looking after a child with eczema can be stressful at times.

It can be upsetting to see a child’s skin looking sore, itchy, dry, or bleeding. It may be distressing to see them get upset by their eczema or be kept up at night because of it.

I used to feel so angry and guilty when I saw her scratching, I felt like it was all my fault, like I should be able to stop the itching or something. I’ve learnt ways to help her now – how to use the right creams and when – but I still remember how frustrating it all felt at the time.


You just want to cry with them when their eczema is bad. It just looks so sore, itchy, and uncomfortable.


There may be times when you feel as though you don’t get a minute’s break. You might also feel tired from lack of sleep if your child’s been up scratching all night. On top of this, you may find that you have less time to spend with your partner, your other children, or with friends.

These feelings are normal. Everybody feels stressed from time to time. It’s a normal response to difficult times. But being too stressed for too long can have bad effects on your health, mood, and wellbeing.

This section will take a closer look at ways to help you deal with stress. It will also look at relaxation techniques you might find helpful.

At first, I didn’t think I was that stressed. I just thought I was really busy, which is a pretty normal part of being a parent. Then I started getting headaches and my shoulders felt achy. I think that was my body’s way of telling me to slow down.


How do I know if I'm stressed?

Everybody reacts differently to stress. Getting to know your own signs of stress is one of the first steps in learning to deal with it.

  • Many people notice changes in their body. They may get tense shoulders, feel tired all the time, or get headaches.
  • You may notice changes in your mood. You may feel more easily annoyed, worried, or angrier than usual.

When people are stressed, they may notice that their thoughts become more negative.
These thoughts are often putting ourselves down. For example, thinking, “why am I so stupid” or “I can’t cope with this”.
Thoughts like these are called unhelpful thoughts, and they can have a big impact on our confidence and the way we manage stress.

I find myself being quite snappy with people when I’m stressed. If I catch myself doing it, I try to take a break from what I’m doing. I might go for a 5 minute walk or take a few deep breaths.


What things can I do to manage my stress?

Below, we will go through techniques that you may find helpful for coping with stress. You can choose the techniques best suited to you.

Look out for what is making you stressed.

We often feel stressed when we are faced with things we think we can’t manage. The first step is to spot what is making you stressed. This may be an issue that comes up from time to time, like going to a doctor or nurse appointment. Or it may be an ongoing stressful situation, like caring for a child with eczema.

Once you know which situations make you stressed, you can look at ways to make these easier.

I noticed that I would always get really stressed before every doctor’s appointment. I would never sleep the night before. When this happens, I find it helpful to write a list of questions I want to ask the doctor. It helps me knowing I could just read off my list if I forget what I want to say.


Keep tabs on your stress

Try to notice when you start to feel stressed. The sooner you notice, the quicker you can do something about it.

It may help to write down when you feel stressed. Was it at a certain time of day? What was the situation? How did you feel? What did you do to cope? How did it work out?

Thinking about this can help get a fresh perspective on your situation. It can also help you spot when and where you get stressed or worried.

What coping skills work for you in different situations?

I was trying to get her ready for school and she was running away. I noticed I was starting to lose my temper. So I took a couple of deep breaths and managed to get things back on track after that.


Confront the cause of your stress

For example, if your stress is because you are finding it difficult to get control of your child’s eczema, try tackling the stress by going to see the pharmacist to discuss your child’s treatments.

Taking control of a situation can help you feel less stressed. It can be good for your general wellbeing too.

Plan your time

Planning your time can make you feel more in control and better able to handle difficult situations.

  • Spot your best time of day. Do the important tasks that need the most energy and focus at that time. For example, you might be a morning person or an evening person. Or it may be when your child is at nursery or school, or having a nap.
  • Make a list of the things you have to do. This might include putting on creams. Put the most important things at the top, and the least important at the bottom. Try to do the most important and urgent things first.

I find it helpful to make a weekly timetable. I put all the families’ activities on there. Then I plan when I’m going to put on my child’s creams around this. I also make sure I put some ‘me time’ on there as well.

  • Set goals that are small and can easily be met. When you are stressed, it’s easy to set yourself big goals that are difficult to achieve. It can make you feel more stressed if you don’t meet your goals. Small and easy goals can make you feel more in control.
  • Ask someone if they can help. For example, you could ask a family member or friend to help with some of your daily tasks. You will then be able to spend more time doing the tasks that are making you feel stressed.

When I was first given moisturising creams, I said to myself that I would put them on my child three times a day. I really wanted my child’s eczema to go away. But, I found this really difficult and just felt guilty every time I missed one out. My nurse told me to try putting on the creams just once a day. This was much easier! Once I got into a routine with the creams, I felt happier to up it to twice a day.


Look after your body

Taking steps to look after your body can help you look after your mind.

  • Get plenty of sleep. Things can feel worse when we are tired. The smallest of tasks can feel too much. Getting more sleep can help you deal with difficult situations. You may want to have a look at the ‘sleep and eczema’ section if your child is having trouble sleeping because of their eczema. You can get to this section from the ‘itch, stress and sleep’ menu above.
  • Get active. Being active is good for your body and mind. Even a 10 minute walk can make you feel much calmer.
  • Eat healthy. What you eat and when you eat can make a big difference to how you feel. It’s tempting to skip meals or eat the wrong kind of foods when you are stressed. But this can make you feel even more tired, down, and easily annoyed.

You can find links to more information about looking after your body to look after your mind in the ‘other resources’ section. You can get to this section from the ‘more about treatments’ menu above.

Exercise is key for keeping on top of my stress. I try and go for at least a 10 minute walk every day.


Be kind to yourself

  • Forgive yourself when you feel you have made a mistake or don’t meet your goals. Nobody is perfect and putting extra pressure on yourself doesn’t help.
  • Accept the things you can’t change. There are lots of things that we can take control of. But there are also some things that are outside of your control. Understanding this will help you focus your time and energy in ways that are more useful.
  • Reward yourself for the things you do well. Even the small things, like washing your child’s hands with moisturising creams, instead of soap. Treat yourself to a good book or treat yourself to food you enjoy. Or simply tell yourself ‘well done’.

Sometimes I forget to put on the moisturising creams and my child’s eczema then gets really bad. I used to beat myself up about this. Now, I just remind myself that I am human and that I am normally really good at remembering. The odd time this happens, I make sure I put it on lots the next day and the eczema tends to go back to normal after a few days.


Talk to someone

Talk to your family and friends – often just telling the people who are closest to you how you are feeling can make a big difference.

Your doctor or nurse can also help point you to resources and support that you might find helpful, such as talking therapies.

In the ‘other resources’ section, you can find out more about helplines and support groups for families of people with eczema. You can get to this section from the ‘more about treatments’ menu above

I find it really helps to talk to other parents of children with eczema. They know what you’re going though. You also get to know about things that have helped their children’s eczema.



Learning to relax is a great way to calm your worries and help our body and mind recover from everyday rush and stress.

Relaxation can help you:

  • feel less tired
  • sleep better
  • feel more confident
  • feel better able to deal with difficult situations

Some people can relax by listening to music, reading a book, having a long soak in the bath, or going for a walk in the park. But, it’s not so easy for others.

Learning to relax takes practice, as with any new skill. The next couple of pages will explain a relaxation technique you can practice at home.

As a parent of a child with eczema, you probably find yourself very short of time. So you’ll also find some tips for quick relaxation that you can use wherever you are.

I never thought I’d have time to try something like this. But I got to a point where I thought, well, I may as well try it. I’ll tell you now – it’s been great. It was hard to properly relax to start with, but now this helps me get through the day. I feel calmer, more in control of everything and I don’t get so angry anymore. I would recommend it to anyone to try.


Relaxation techniques - Go to a calm place

This guided relaxation takes 5 minutes. It helps you to relax your body and mind. It takes you to a safe and calm place that you can visit in your mind whenever you are feeling stressed. Click play in the box below to listen to the guided relaxation.

Just take a second

This quick relaxation can be done wherever you are. It only takes a few seconds.

  • Stop what you are doing for a moment.
  • Let your shoulders relax and go down.
  • Take 2 or 3 slower, deeper breaths.
  • Carry on with what you were doing, but just a little slower.

Breathing space

It can be useful to take a short breathing space when you are facing a stressful situation. It can let you catch-up with yourself and take stock. Stepping aside for just a few minutes can help you to think about your problems from a calmer place and see them from a different point of view. Click play in the box below to listen the guided breathing space.