By Howard Chang
I just don’t know if I can remove all of the stressors in my life. Are you a person who fumes all day at something that happens at work or school? I can relate. Do conflicts with others simmer right through to bedtime? Happens to me,too. Does change bring an unsettled;feeling that takes more time than you’d like when making adjustments?
I recently learned that a class I registered to audit — and bought plane tickets and reserved a hotel for — was canceled due to low enrollment. Needing to respond to that change in my schedule and plans practically ruined my afternoon.
It’s clearly unrealistic to not have stress in your life. Some stress, called “eustress,” is even beneficial as a motivator and for improving performance. So dealing with stress in a healthy way becomes key. As the article concludes, “While stress may be a symptom that a person’s life is filled with hardship, it could also simply mean that the person is engaged in a wide variety of activities and experiences. If this is the case, reducing exposure to stressors isn’t the answer … We just need to figure out how to manage them better.”
Research shows that inflammation associated with the stress response can exacerbate psoriasis. My experience tells me it does. So today is the day to build up better stress coping skills.
In another column, I discussed ways to break the psoriasis-stress connection and commented on the first four tips from the Everyday Health article “8 Ways to Stress Less With Psoriasis.” Here are four more ways to deal with stress:
Meditate on It
I once did an exercise with college students where I had them enjoy quiet and solitude for 30 minutes. No talking, no phones, no distractions. Most of them became antsy and restless within five minutes. Ironically, it takes effort to truly relax or meditate. I try to enjoy some quiet each day, either while I walk or while I pray. Deep breathing exercises help me, too.
The Everyday Health article cites a study done at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, which found that “psoriasis plaques cleared more quickly when people listened to meditation tapes while undergoing phototherapy treatments.” That’s enough motivation for me!
Soak In the Tub
This one is my wife’s favorites. When she says she’s going to take a bath, I know it’s her relaxation time. She invariably comes out of the bathtub rejuvenated. I personally didn’t grow up taking baths, so I am not in the habit of doing so. But if I do get a chance to take a bath with oatmeal (to treat my eczema) or soak in the hot water by the pool, I end up enjoying it immensely.
Of course, make sure the water isn’t too hot or that the bath isn’t too long. And use moisturizers afterward; otherwise, the bath will dry out your skin.
Identify Your Stressors
The first stressor that comes to mind is psoriasis. Others include public speaking, rushing out of the house early to make a meeting, conflicts at home or work, and changes to my routine (especially those related to my diet, or taking care of my health conditions).
The article suggests keeping a journal of stressors. A journal is not a bad idea, considering the number of stressors I might not even be aware of. Once I’m more aware of my psoriasis triggers, I need to employ techniques to calm myself down in those moments — including the meditation and breathing exercises mentioned above — along with prayer and positive self-talk.
Find Outlets for Fun
Here is a great excuse to have fun: It lowers my stress, which helps my skin. Otherwise, I’m a pretty serious guy with a lot I want to do and accomplish. With my personality, even fun activities become goal-oriented, competitive, or filled with guilt, thinking I should be doing something productive. But if I know that engaging in pleasurable activities and hobbies each day is actually producing something (namely, reducing stress), I will be more likely to let loose.
My top two psoriasis stress management methods are to continue exercising and practice letting go more and having more fun.