Numerous studies have linked stress to psoriasis but the reasons behind this connection are not yet understood. Unfortunately, many people get caught in a vicious cycle. Stress causes flare-ups or worsens the psoriasis. Then, living with the symptoms of psoriasis increases stress levels, which in turn worsens the psoriasis. You get the picture, you see how the cycle can continue, making life difficult.
Not everyone with psoriasis has a reaction to stress. Studies show anywhere from 37 percent to 78 percent of those with psoriasis are "stress-responders" or indicate that the stress in their life has a direct link to the frequency and severity of their symptoms. But, the majority of those who have noticed a relationship between their stress levels and their symptoms list stress as the main cause of exacerbation of psoriasis, topping infection, trauma, medication, diet and weather.
One reason it may be difficult to track the link between stress and psoriasis is the length of time between a stressful event and the increase in symptoms. One study showed that there was an increase in symptoms four weeks after participants went through a stressful time. With such a long time transpiring between a stressful event and symptoms, it can be hard to link them together.
Keeping track of your mood, your stress level and your symptoms on a daily basis, over several months, can help. Use a notebook to write down the date and rate your mood and stress level on a scale of 1 to 10 each day. Briefly describe the severity of your symptoms. Once you have kept track for several months, you may begin to see patterns. You may begin to see that symptoms increase, in frequency, severity or both, shortly after or even several weeks after you have gone through a stressful situation. This information can be shared with your doctor so together you can create a treatment plan that includes monitoring and managing stress, if needed.
If you have noticed a relationship between your psoriasis symptoms and stress, you can use different relaxation techniques to help manage your stress levels. The following are some ways to cope with stress:
Use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Meditation and yoga, when practiced on a daily basis, help to relieve feelings of stress throughout the day. Deep breathing exercises can be used to help calm you down when in a stressful situation but taking ten minutes to practice deep breathing each day can also help you feel more relaxed overall. If you use light therapy, you might want to use this time to listen to relaxing music or practice meditation.
Add exercise to your daily routine. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, which can, in turn, reduce your symptoms of psoriasis.
Set aside time each day for yourself. You might like reading, gardening, having lunch with a friend, getting a massage or taking a walk. Think about the activities you enjoy and plan a time that you can focus on yourself. For some, this may only be 15 minutes, others may be able to find an hour or more each day. The important part is to dedicate this time to participating in something you find enjoyable and relaxing every day.