Research shows there’s a connection between stress and psoriasis outbreaks. People living with psoriasis who engage in stress-reducing activities may actually get some relief from the effects of the condition. Finding ways to cut down on stress may also improve overall quality of life.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, stress and the nervous system have an impact on inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis. Taking steps to relieve stress can help stop the inflammatory response that causes the itchy skin and red lesions associated with plaque psoriasis.
You can engage in stress-relieving activities at home or in your community. Here are 11 ways to reduce stress that may work for you.
1. Meditate mindfully
Mindfulness is a specific meditation technique that brings awareness to the present moment. You begin by sitting still with your eyes shut and focusing on your breathing. During a brief meditation period of about 15 minutes, thoughts should slow down and feelings of self-judgment and self-doubt fade away.
In a 1998 study of 37 people receiving ultraviolet phototherapy (UVB) or photochemotherapy (PUVA), this type of meditation was proven helpful for people with psoriasis. Those who listened to a meditation tape during treatments achieved results faster than those who did not.
2. Move your body
Tai chi and yoga are two examples of movement therapies that tackle stress in several ways. Slower forms of yoga use mindfulness breathing techniques while engaging the muscles to stretch and balance. Tai chi uses slow, deliberate movements to improve the flow of energy through the body. Both practices can improve mood and concentration, adding to an overall sense of well-being.
3. Explore the outdoors
Spending time in nature can help you reconnect. Going for a walk, hike, or cycle helps many people take their minds off their worries. Exercise in general helps to relieve tension. So combining your favorite type of activity with getting to know your community can have a positive effect on psoriasis symptoms.
4. Identify triggers
Stress is very personal. Knowing what makes you feel particularly vulnerable to feelings of unease can help you create new patterns of well-being. You may want to jot down what’s happening in your life when you feel stressed.
With an idea of what causes these feelings, you can use management techniques to stop them from getting out of control. On-the-spot deep breathing for 10 to 15 seconds is enough to help some people from feeling overwhelmed by stress.
5. Enjoy yourself
Doing something you love can help reduce stress. Many people enjoy working on crafts, writing, going for a walk, chatting with friends, or engaging in other self-care activities. A bit of time for yourself may clear your head and re-energize you enough to tackle life’s obligations.
6. Prioritize tasks
When times get busy at your job or in your personal life, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Make a to-do list, and organize the tasks you need to complete in order of priority. You might not be able to avoid what you need to do, but writing tasks down and crossing them off when you finish them can take a huge weight off your shoulders. Tune your attention into one thing at a time to increase your productivity and reduce stress.
7. Take breaks
It’s perfectly fine to take a few minutes to just do nothing. If something is stressing you out, walk away from it for a little bit. Clear your head by going for a quick walk, taking a 20-minute power nap, or meditating for a few minutes. A quick refresh may be all you need to decrease stress, allowing you to focus on your task again.
8. Follow a healthy diet
Eating healthy foods doesn’t just benefit your body, but your mind, too. Up your intake of whole grains, veggies, and fruits instead of foods high in sugar, salt, and saturated and trans fats. Also, avoid drinking too much alcohol or caffeinated beverages, and smoking cigarettes. You might not feel a difference in your stress levels overnight, but in the long run, these improvements to your health will help.
9. Focus on your breath
We’re all constantly breathing, but how often are you focusing on it? If you’re feeling anxious, you might not be getting as much oxygen as your lungs can take in. Sit or lie down in a quiet spot, close your eyes, and breathe through your nose until you feel your abdomen expand. Then, exhale and repeat. Concentrating on taking deep breaths can help you relax and avoid stressful thoughts.
Most people know that sleep is important. Few want to feel tired during the day, but life often gets in the way, and it can be a challenge to get a good night’s sleep. People living with psoriasis may experience outbreaks if fatigue contributes to stress. Deep breathing before bed, putting away electronics before hitting the sheets, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evenings may make it easier to have a restful night.
11. Speak with a friend or professional
Sometimes it helps just to talk. No one should feel on their own when it comes to stress management. Checking in with a friend or therapist helps many people to discover new stress reduction strategies and to see their triggers in a different way. Spending time with supportive friends can also reduce feelings of depression and isolation.
It’s tough to escape feelings of stress in day-to-day life. But it’s possible to control the response to stress triggers. For people living with psoriasis, taking an active role in preventing stress can not only improve their overall health, but also reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks.
By focusing on physical and mental health and getting outside help when necessary, you can remain in control of the condition.