Research shows acne and depression often go hand in hand. But the good news is, simple mindset shifts, as well as dietary and lifestyle changes can improve both. Here, a psychologist shares tips on how to improve your mood and self-esteem while dealing with acne.
The Acne & Depression Link
If acne has been prompting or exacerbating feelings of depression, you’re not alone.
Depression and anxiety have been found to be up to three times more likely in people who have acne compared to those who don’t, and women are twice as likely to be affected as men. (1, 2)
How To Deal with Acne Depression
Depression comes in many forms, and also has common underlying qualities, such as low mood, low self-esteem, difficulty feeling joy, lack of interest in things, irritability, and anxiety. The first steps in dealing with depression are acknowledging it and choosing to take action and get help. According to Holistic Psychologist, Ellie Cobb, PhD,
“Getting help and taking action may mean: opening up to a loved one about the feelings, seeking therapy, starting a consistent meditation practice, making healthy nutritional choices, engaging in exercise, socializing with friends, becoming part of a meaningful community, and spending time in nature.”
Diet and lifestyle can have a huge impact on our mental health (and our skin). For example, an omega-3 deficiency has been associated with both depression and acne. So make sure you’re consuming enough, and supplement if needed. Likewise, exercise has been found to improve our mood and our skin.
If you’re new to the holistic lifestyle, here are some additional resources to help you improve your diet and lifestyle in order to improve your mood and mental health:
- Holistic Strategies to Beat Stress and Anxiety
- 7 Foods To Fight Stress
- 9 Stress-Reducing Teas
- 3 Stress-Relieving Activities
How to Improve Self-Esteem While Struggling With Acne
When I was struggling with acne, my self-esteem was in the gutter. I couldn’t help but feel ugly and ashamed every time I looked in the mirror. It made me shy away from social activities and feel like something was wrong with me. I would get sad and then mad that I was cursed with this affliction. It would lead me to pick and scrub my face more in an effort to get rid of the pimples, which only exacerbated the problem.
It wasn’t until I took a more gentle approach, and decided to call a cease-fire on the war with my skin, that I was able to stop compulsively picking, washing, treating, and stressing. When I accepted my skin, and myself, I was able to put the harsh chemicals down, focus more on nourishing my body and health, and let my skin do what it’s meant to do: heal.
According to Cobb,
“Self-love starts with acceptance. When we accept ourselves as we are, instead of striving for an ideal, we allow love to grow within us. Acceptance does not mean being passive. Acceptance means acknowledging things as they are instead of trying to control an outcome.”
It wasn’t until I decided to love myself – pimples and all – that I was able to stick to a healthy eating regimen and lifestyle which could clear my skin from within.
How To Combat Negative Self-Talk When Dealing With Acne
If you can’t help but hurl insults at yourself, make an intentional effort to see the good in yourself, and life in general. This helps combat negative self-talk, low self-esteem, and low mood. Cobb shared that one of her favorite daily practices is gratitude practice.
“Practicing gratitude changes the brain, and therefore changes our whole perspective and well-being. Starting small makes a massive difference- finding the smallest things to be thankful for in ourselves initiates the process of overriding our negativity bias, which opens us up to the possibility of appreciating and loving ourselves.”
How to Deal with Acne At Work
Adult acne is incredibly common, yet so many of us feel like we should have grown out of it in our 20s, 30s, and 40s. So many women have shared with me that they feel their acne is holding them back at work, as they don’t want to put themself out there for raises, promotions, even sharing ideas, as they feel they can’t be taken seriously “looking like a kid.” I asked Cobb for her wisdom:
“Every adult has their own challenges, some are visible on the outside and some are not. When ours are visible on the outside, it makes us more vulnerable to feel ashamed. Feeling ashamed can make us retreat from others and self-isolate, which only compounds the feelings of low mood and low self-worth. The most effective way to combat these feelings and thrive is making sure to connect with others in the workplace, even when feeling ashamed or embarrassed.”
How to Improve Your Mood With Acne
Dealing with acne is tough. Treat yourself with compassion and kindness, as you navigate through this time. Instead of hating on yourself or your skin, thank your body and your skin for doing its job. After all, acne is a sign of inflammation and imbalance within. So, by making the dietary and lifestyle changes necessary to clear your skin, you also bring your body into balance, reduce chronic inflammation, and ultimately improve your gut, mood, hormone levels, immunity, and overall health.
Also, lean on community to get you through this time. As Cobb says,
“Humans thrive on connection. Meaningful healing happens in a community, as we all need to be seen and heard, especially with our challenges. Connect with others, even when it feels difficult.”
Remember, you can’t heal a body you hate. Every day, train your brain to look for the good in life by establishing a daily gratitude practice, or simply looking in the mirror and finding things to love and be thankful for. This will train your brain to see the good and allow you to love yourself over time.