7 Psoriatic Arthritis–Friendly Strategies That Can Help Relieve Stress
Stress can trigger a psoriatic arthritis flare, which can cause even more stress. Try these tips to keep stress at bay.
We all want to do better at managing the stress in our lives, but stress management is especially important for people with psoriatic arthritis, because stress can trigger a flare-up. Mental stress causes your brain to release chemicals that help your body respond to the stress. Unfortunately, those chemicals can also cause inflammation, which can lead to swollen and painful joints.
What’s more, experiencing a psoriatic arthritis flare can in turn compound stress levels. So it’s essential to take steps to avoid this vicious cycle.
Start with these seven simple ways to keep stress at bay and your psoriatic arthritis symptoms under control.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Activities and behaviors that use mindfulness — staying focused on the present moment and accepting feelings and thoughts without judgment — can help keep stress at bay and put it in perspective.
A study published in August 2019 in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that practicing mindfulness meditation techniques, such as focusing on breathing and mental relaxation, relieved inflammatory symptoms brought on by stress in people who experienced chronic pain.
“Yoga can also be particularly helpful since it not only consists of a lot of stretching, but also involves the strengthening of core muscles and the added benefit to the mind-body connection,” says Sandeep K. Agarwal, MD, PhD, associate professor and chief of rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
2. Stay Active
Exercise can help naturally soothe the aches and chronic joint pain associated with psoriatic arthritis and can also double as a stress reliever.
Physical activity releases chemicals in your brain called endorphins, or neurotransmitters that contribute to feeling good. These hormones help improve your mood and can also help you better manage stressful situations.
“Exercise is also important for maintaining muscle strength around the affected joints and thereby providing more support for those joints,” says Dr. Agarwal. “Stretching, mild muscle strengthening, and mild cardiovascular exercises are all helpful.”
In a 2021 review of psoriatic arthritis patients researchers found that worsening psoriasis was associated with those who were obese or had sedentary lifestyles, indicating that lifestyle changes such as physical activity could potentially improve psoriasis.
But not all types of exercise are meant for people with psoriatic disease, depending on where you’re prone to flares. For example, someone with chronic knee inflammation should probably avoid running marathons.
Be sure to talk with your doctor about what types of exercise are best for you.
3. Get Support
Psoriatic arthritis is a lifelong condition and dealing with the symptoms on your own can be stressful. Having the support of family, friends, and other loved ones can help ease the burden.
For example, having someone to share household chores with can help relieve daily stress. Going for a walk with a friend can double as exercise and a way to take your mind off things that may be bothering you. And having someone who will listen to you when you’re having a bad day can help ease some of the stress you’re experiencing.
Joining a psoriatic arthritis support group can also help by providing you with a platform where you can share your challenges and experiences with others who are navigating life with the condition.
4. Seek Help
If you yearn for additional support beyond family, friends, and support groups, consider taking a course in stress management or working with a therapist who specializes in stress management.
If you need help finding classes or other resources, contact the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Patient Navigation Center.
5. Keep a Journal
While it may not sound like the best stress reliever, keeping a journal can help you track and figure out the patterns of your flares and identify circumstances that may be triggering your symptoms.
Keeping a simple log of things you did during the day and how you were feeling can help you and your doctor spot what helps keep symptoms at bay and what might be making your psoriatic arthritis worse. For example, staying late at work may cause you stress, while you may find yourself more relaxed on days when you’re able to take a hot bath.
A technique called expressive writing is another way for you to process your emotions by recording them on paper. The BMC Palliative Care Journal reports that expressive writing is a simple, therapeutic practice that involves writing daily for 15 to 20 minutes for three to four days consecutively.
6. Embrace a Hobby
One of the best ways for anyone to relieve and manage stress is to find a hobby to turn to for relaxation. Whether it’s gardening, reading a book, or spending time with family, doing something you enjoy thoroughly can help keep your mind off your psoriatic arthritis and other stressful situations in your life.
7. Get a Pet
Studies have shown that pets can help reduce stress. The National Psoriasis Foundation notes that a pet can be a loving companion, especially in times of need. Some pets will also get you moving and encourage physical activity. Check out your local animal shelter to find an available pet that’s right for you.
If caring for an animal seems overwhelming, you don’t technically have to own a pet to reap the benefits. Consider pursuing pet therapy sessions with a trained animal and a handler. Research has found that heart rate as well as self-reported anxiety and stress levels dropped with the use of pet therapy.