For over a year we’ve all been facing an extremely stressful situation. Many conditions are exacerbated by stress, and psoriasis is no exception. In fact, it’s likely that many people were diagnosed with psoriasis for the first time during the pandemic. To make things worse, dealing with psoriasis can in turn increase stress, especially when you are already watching yourself for unusual symptoms (and in some cases, skin rashes have been associated with COVID-19).
It’s not all bad, though. The pandemic has also taught us many things about self care and helped us establish what can really work for our routines.
How does Stress Cause Psoriasis?
The link between psoriasis and stress is unclear. We don’t even know exactly what causes psoriasis, but we do know that it is caused by a dysfunction of the immune system. It’s likely, then, that the reason stress causes flare-ups is because of the overall effect it has on the immune system. Not everyone with psoriasis has issues with stress, but if you do, you have likely had issues over the past year.
Meditation, Stress, and Psoriasis
In April, 2020, the top ten English-language meditation apps saw two million more downloads than in January. The combination of elevated levels of stress with many people having gained time due to working from home has led to more people trying meditation or going back to it after time away.
One study showed that meditation can clear psoriasis flare-ups more quickly when combined with light therapy. Although older, this study used the exact same kind of short mindfulness sessions that are generally in popular meditation apps, which gives a sign that meditation apps can help people with psoriasis reduce flare-ups and recover more quickly. This is in addition to the other benefits of reducing stress. However, it is at its best when combined with UVB phototherapy or PUVA photochemotherapy.
This suggests that a great self care option for people with psoriasis is to use a home UVB light box combined with meditation. Phototherapy requires a prescription, and you should talk to your doctor about meditation options. You may need to try several to find the one which is right for you.
The combination of working from home and restaurant dining being restricted has led many people to cook at home more. This gives you more control over your diet.
For people with psoriasis, it’s important to limit alcohol (especially for men), and eat anti-inflammatory foods such as berries, fatty fish, olive oil and certain herbs including cumin and ginger. It’s also important to lower intake of red meat, dairy, and refined sugars.
Having more time to cook and prepare food may help a lot of people prevent flare ups. Although the stress of having everyone home may inspire some indulging in libation, spending less time around alcohol is important for preventing flare ups. While many are now starting to return to the office, finding ways to cook meals at home (especially lunch) and learning to say no to just one more drink could help you stay healthier and continue to avoid flare-ups.
Also, knowing exactly what is in your food might help you identify specific foods that cause issues so you can avoid them.
The downside is that many people have engaged in stress eating, which often centers around cravings for unhealthy, processed food and refined sugars. Many people have learned that they deal with these urges.
Increased Outdoor Exercise
With gyms closed and exercise equipment hard to find, many people got into the habit of exercising outside, specifically walking. Being out in nature reduces stress, and walking is an ideal exercise for people with psoriatic arthritis, who often struggle with more intense activity.
People have taken to just walking the streets of their neighborhood or nearby parks, where it is easier to social distance and they can generally avoid wearing a mask.
In addition to reducing stress, walking increases creativity and reduces stress eating. Walking has also been shown to be good for your immune system and thus may help regulate it better, reducing flare-ups. You don’t even have to walk very far or devote a lot of time to it in order for it to be beneficial for your health.
The pandemic has generated a lot of stress and anxiety, and for many people these mental health issues are going to be lasting. However, it’s also taught us the value of looking after ourselves. For psoriasis sufferers, the extra time to meditate and cook healthy food that supports their immune system has proven to be helpful. These are habits we should all try to keep up going into the post-pandemic future.