Life has no shortage of chaos and stress at every turn right now. Stress and anxiety are said to be top triggers for new psoriasis flares and can make current psoriasis symptoms feel even worse. Unfortunately stress is inescapable for most of us but there are tools we can practice to manage through rough times.
There are varying levels of stress. Sometimes it hits without warning, but there are times when you know a stressful time period is coming. Then you can find ways to help alleviate its intensity. We’re all different and so are the ways we manage stress. I’m sharing a few of my proven ways to manage stress and psoriasis flares.
1. Talk to someone
A friend, family member, or a professional.
Talking through what is stressing you out or how you feel when your psoriasis flares can make you feel better. Working with a professional can help you develop the best tools to manage the stress that comes with psoriasis. It’s easy to think of treating psoriasis as just treating your skin and physical appearance but the mental and emotional aspect of stress and psoriasis flares needs to be discussed as well.
To me, the most beautiful part of social media has been the ability to connect with other members of the psoriasis community for support. People living with the same disease(s) as us have similar experiences and can understand the stress and emotions that go with them. If you haven’t already, look into support groups or others online talking about their diagnosis.
2. Plan as much as possible
I focus on the things that I can control. For me, putting things down on paper and having a plan of attack makes me feel like I have some control over my stress.
If I know there is an upcoming scenario that will stress me out, I plan ahead for different results. For example, if I’m giving a presentation I prepare extensively and give the presentation out loud to an empty room. It feels silly but when I get nervous I speak very quickly and tend to forget my written notes. Speaking out loud lets me hear how it sounds when I’m communicating to ensure I get my point across.
Another example is being in a meeting with a colleague and disagreeing on something. I’m a people pleaser and I hate nothing more than conflict. Coming educated on why and how something is your preference/choice allows you to focus the discussion on those facts and points to help solve your disagreement.
There are a ton of examples for stress at work, but knowing as much as you can and being prepared for a situation can help you feel more relaxed.
Meals & Snacks:
When I don’t plan what I’m going to eat, I tend to grab whatever is around and easiest to shove into my mouth. I’m a stress eater, so gravitate towards chips, candy, and things that don’t nourish my body well. Even though its time consuming in the upfront, the planning gives me one less thing to think about and helps me avoid putting food in my body that can irritate my psoriasis. When I’m meal planning, I keep a list of anti-inflammatory foods nearby so I can incorporate them into my meals.
These days I’m home 99.9% of the time so can live in comfy clothes. When I was commuting into the office, I would plan and set out my clothes the night before. It gives me the chance to think about what occasions, weather, and environments that I’m dressing for. Not only does it make my morning routine move faster, but it ensures that I’m going to be comfortable in my clothing choices and won’t irritate my psoriasis. Going back to the Professional Situations examples, planning ahead helps me feel confident in what I’m wearing so while I’m working I’m not focused on my psoriasis.
3. Stick to your treatment regime
It’s incredibly important to be compliant with whatever treatments and medications you are taking. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to forget or feel too tired to keep up. I’m currently on a biologic and take injections at home. I schedule those into my calendar to ensure I take them on time. I also moisturize twice a day, first after my morning shower and again before bed. If I don’t moisturize then my skin feels dry and tight and I spend the day uncomfortable and itchy. It can be time consuming but it’s an important step that I try not to miss.
4. Try to adopt a “go with the flow” mentality
There will be things that come up that could force you to adjust all that careful planning and cause additional stress. Take a deep breath and take five minutes away if you can to calm your mind or meditate. When I find the time to meditate, I rely on the Buddhify app to keep my mind focused. Those few minutes will help slow down your thoughts, giving you time to clearly think about an alternative solution or plan that will best answer these new stressful challenges.
5. Find an outlet
For me it’s exercise. I’m an Orangetheory addict and go about 5 times a week. It’s one hour a day that’s just for me to focus on my health. I also write and make lists to help me make sense of things and to get things out of my head. Otherwise things swirl around in there causing more stress. Find that thing for you that makes you feel relaxed and gives you time to focus on yourself.
6. Get outside
It’s common for psoriasis patients to have Vitamin D deficiencies. Even a few minutes a day can get some of that much needed Vitamin D ( talk to your doctor about getting tested for a deficiency before adding a supplement). Getting outside also gives you a change of scenery to clear your mind. “According to a 2019 study, salivary cortisol levels significantly decreased when time was spent in nature with the greatest impact coming from spending 20 to 30 minutes outside. Exposure to green space appears to increase parasympathetic nervous activity, which is the system that relaxes or “undoes” the effects from stress caused by the sympathetic nervous system. The result is in a sense of calmness, along with lower heart rate and blood pressure.”
7. Self care
It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It’s absolutely necessary, especially when you are managing flares.
Say no. To invitations and plans if they will make you feel stressed. Say no to doing things that don’t make you feel good. Say no to yourself and the pressure you put on yourself to be productive.
Sleep. I’m an early riser to get my workouts in before the girls go to sleep, but it means going to bed early. If you can, grab a nap on the weekend. Fatigue is a common symptom of psoriasis that doesn’t get talked about enough, so it’s super important to listen to your body.
Fuel your body. Earlier, I talk about eating anti inflammatory foods but I want to stress that the food you put into your body is important to how you feel.
You won’t always be able to control everything that stresses you out, but planning ahead and developing your own tools will go a long way in managing stress and psoriasis flares.