Living with a chronic skin disease such as hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) can damage your self-esteem. If you’re living with HS and your self-confidence could use a boost, you may benefit from positive affirmations — also called self-affirmation. These positive thoughts and acts aim to reinforce self-worth, body positivity, core values, and a broader sense of yourself and your potential. Self-affirmation has been shown to help people with various health conditions be more resourceful and proactive in taking care of themselves.
Members of MyHSteam, the online support group for people with hidradenitis suppurativa, often talk about the need for optimism. “Let’s speak those positive affirmations to ourselves, our soul, and our body! I love you all,” a team member said.
People living with skin conditions like HS have nearly twice the risk of depression and anxiety as the general population. The stress of living with a chronic illness and the discomfort that comes with chronic pain, inflammation, and recurring flare-ups and sores can take a toll on your psychological well-being and self-esteem.
Managing mental health is an essential part of self-care for people with HS, and positive affirmations may help improve your mindset and quality of life. Positive affirmations and the power of positive thinking are linked to improved health and happiness. Here are some ways you can use this type of approach to minimize negative thoughts and raise your self-esteem.
People with hidradenitis suppurativa who have low self-esteem may feel a lack of control over their lives. Self-affirmation has been shown to increase a sense of power and help people feel more confident in social situations and make better decisions.
Self-affirmation can take various forms, such as:
“I started a journal today just for HS. It was hard just to start. Hopefully this helps me. I’m always going to try new ways. It’s personal, but I am learning to share more,” a myHSteam member said.
Self-affirmation can help reinforce your self-esteem and a sense of empowerment and motivate you to make healthier and more productive decisions.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can help you calm negative thoughts and stress by focusing on the present moment. Mindfulness practices can take different forms, such as sitting meditation, walking meditation, or lying down and paying careful attention to your mind and body. A mindfulness practice can focus on positive affirmations.
A myHSteam member wrote about their experience with practicing mindfulness. “I still have depression and some anxiety, but I don’t let it be a runaway train. When thoughts come, I quickly focus on something else. I practice ancient Tibetan and Christian mindfulness and being in the present moment,” they said. “I let go of things outside my control and focus on beauty, kindness, and tiny small joys. I still have negative thoughts and emotions, but redirect to positive thoughts.”
The goal of mindfulness is to gain a sense of acceptance and avoid judgmental thoughts and feelings that can undermine well-being, body image, or daily life and activities. Researchers suggest that mindfulness could be a valuable tool for people with HS and possibly help relieve chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.
Regulating one’s breath through conscious or deep breathing has been shown to help lower the stress hormone cortisol and may have other health benefits. Deep breathing can be done along with positive affirmations.
One myHSteam member shared their technique: “Deep breathing and one thought at a time. That is what I try to do when I am overwhelmed with pains and thoughts.”
Box breathing, for example, is an easy practice that provides a structure for breath control. With box breathing, you count to four as you inhale through your nose, hold your breath for four counts, exhale for another four counts, and then count to four as you hold the exhale. The combination of breathing and counting can soothe the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates functions such as rest and digestion.
A daily habit of self-affirmation, mindfulness, or box breathing can help you put a positive spin on each day and be proactive about HS. Other daily habits can also help lift your self-esteem.
In one research study of 153 people with hidradenitis suppurativa, most of the participants reported that their HS interfered with social activities. Taking part in social activities is an important part of emotional well-being.
Even a daily phone call to a friend or family member can ease feelings of social isolation and boost self-esteem. Sharing how you feel and asking about others is an essential part of healthy social interaction.
Engaging in something enjoyable each day can help you feel better about yourself. What you do is up to you, but for some people it might be:
Whatever activity you choose, be sure to take this time for yourself — it’s psychologically and emotionally healthy to do something just for the pleasure of it.
“I’ve come to find that sitting and focusing on a hobby helps distract the mind from the pain,” a myHSteam member said.
Taking care of your emotional well-being while living with a chronic condition such as hidradenitis suppurativa is an ongoing process. Be patient and nurturing with yourself. Sometimes you may need to comfort yourself with positive self-talk — actually talk to yourself — and assure yourself that better days are ahead.
A myHSteam member wrote about working on their self-compassion: “Self-care is one of the things I need to stay on track of — loving myself and my body. Sometimes my negativity wins over everything.”
Ups and downs are to be expected, and self-compassion is an important part of self-care. Try not to be hard on yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need to regain energy and motivation.
Affirming your need for help is a positive and proactive step for coping with the range of feelings that can affect self-esteem when living with HS. Talk to a doctor who understands HS, such as your dermatologist, if you are feeling psychologically burdened and would like guidance in developing a more positive outlook.
Let the people close to you know what they can do to help you feel more positive. You may also benefit from an in-person or online support group, such as myHSteam, where members share tips on how to stay positive. “I feel that this site has given each and every one of us hope. We can compare notes, discuss our situations together, and work on the best solutions. We are a positive voice for this medical situation,” a myHSteam member wrote.
If you’re experiencing ongoing feelings of distress, talk to your doctor to determine if you might benefit from mental health counseling.
There’s no right or wrong way to practice positive affirmations. You can adapt any of the suggestions here in ways that work for you. It can be helpful to plan to focus on a positive affirmation every day. Find a quiet, comfortable place to meditate or practice deep breathing. Pick a time of day when your energy is usually higher and set aside time for an activity that can put you in a positive mood.
Start slowly. Even taking 10 minutes to stop your ordinary activities and focus on self-affirmation can be uplifting. Eventually you may find your practice becomes longer.
On myHSteam, the social network for people with hidradenitis suppurativa and their loved ones, more than 31,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with HS.
What do you do to stay positive with HS? What kind of positive affirmations have you tried? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.