Are Stress & Psoriasis Related?
Stress is a daily part of most people’s lives, manifesting itself in any situation that causes pressure, change or anxiety for an individual. Busy days, traffic, health issues and family life are just a few of the many potential causes of stress. Stress can also manifest itself in happier situations as well, including weddings, winning a sports game and positive life changes.
For people with psoriasis, stress means more than nervousness – regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. Stress can result in psoriasis flare ups, which means worsened symptoms and discomfort. Managing stress is essential for people with psoriasis to better control the duration and frequency of flare-ups.
Our bodies are primed to respond to ‘flight or fight’ triggers, stimulating the adrenaline and sympathetic nervous systems in order to keep us safe and out of danger. However, in the modern day, the body’s natural response is displaced onto situations which are not threatening to our health or safety.
Types of Stress
There are both positive and negative types of stress, although both can stimulate a psoriasis flare-up. Positive types of stress, also known as “eustress”, may stem from weddings, parties and other happy occasions. These stressors motivate you to stay motivated and challenged. Negative types of stress are technically known as “distress”, but are more colloquially known as ‘stress’.
Everyone has different levels of stress tolerance, which means that some people can handle more stress in a situation than others. Stress can fall into three categories:
- Acute stress: A common form of stress experienced by most people, acute stress is the type you feel when your morning has gone awry, when you have an upcoming deadline at work, or when it simply feels like there is too much to do, or during sports games or parties. This type of stress can be motivating in small amounts, but exhausting in larger amounts. Acute stress is short-term and goes away after the stressor has passed. Acute stress also does not cause the physical damage of chronic stress.
- Episodic Acute stress: People who have episodic acute stress often find themselves stressing out almost all the time. They may be prone to worrying constantly or feeling like they are always in a state of crisis.
- Chronic stress: Chronic stress occurs when a person feels trapped in a situation and does not see a way out. Chronic stress is a long-term condition that can be dangerous not only because it can cause damage to a person’s organs and heart, but it can become normalized and easy to ignore.
When your stress causes psoriasis flare-ups, especially on a regular basis, it may be time to look at stress management techniques.
Stress Management Techniques
For many people, stress is an unavoidable part of daily life. Psoriasis does not currently have a cure. As a result, stress management techniques may be helpful in reducing stress and ideally reducing the severity or frequency of psoriasis flare-ups. There is no single remedy for stress relief. Some people find that exercise works on its own, while others may find meditation is best for them. Still others may discover that a combination of techniques is their best bet.
- Exercise: Exercise naturally elevates endorphin levels that help with dissipating stress. Try to schedule in at least three 30 minute sessions per week. Recruit a friend and get into shape together!
- Meditation: Taking some time out of a busy day may seem impossible when there are a dozen things on the ‘to do’ list, but making time for yourself is an effective way to reduce stress. Meditation and mindful thinking can help you center yourself and take a step back from the stresses of life.
- Hobbies: Focusing on a favorite hobby is one way of taking your mind off of a problem at hand and redirecting your energies. Woodworking, painting, drawing and gardening are just a few examples of stress-reducing hobbies.
- Talking with friends or family: Bottling up what’s bothering you can take a toll on even the strongest person. Getting it off your chest is a healthy way to reduce stress and potentially help you work through difficult situations at school or work.
- Consider outside support: It can be hard to talk to family or friends about stress and psoriasis. That doesn’t mean you’re totally alone. Reach out to a local support group.
- Alternative therapies: Alternative therapies such as supplements, tai chi and acupuncture are options to reduce stress. Always speak to your doctor before starting an alternative therapy regimen.