In 2012, I was diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. At first, being diagnosed with two autoimmune _diseases simultaneously was a lot to take. Not knowing anyone else with my diseases made me feel very alone. It was a great blessing to learn a co-worker had lived with psoriasis most of her life. She stressed how important self-care is, because stress is one of our biggest triggers. _
Here are some ways I practice self-care to keep my stress level under control:
1.Take time for prayer and/or meditation. I have always found that starting the day this way helps me set the tone for the rest of it. Waking, settling and centering helps me feel calm and ready to organize my tasks more efficiently. I learned to meditate with the free** Headspace** app, and later moved on to the free** Buddhify** app.
2.Give yourself permission to miss out. This may sound too simple, but in the moment and feeling stressed, I have learned to listen to my body, decide what I can manage and what I am willing to give up or live without. Many times, this means I make no plans after work. I usually do better if I allow myself to poop out and relax until bed time. Other times, this means the weekend laundry can wait until next weekend. Socializing is done on my schedule, and I do not feel guilty turning down invitations when I know I will be physically unable to handle it.
Back to that co-worker: Once I had access to someone who I knew understood how I was feeling, I sought to broaden my community. This step was the most helpful in easing my mind. In fact, I found a community so wonderful, I am almost grateful for my diseases. For, were it not for my autoimmunity, I might never have met these folks.
Here are the ways I built my community and how they help me:
1.Seek out a foundation and a fundraiser for your diseases. While searching for any type of walk to cure, I happened upon the National Psoriasis Foundation. They raise money for psoriatic disease research. I signed up for the walk and noticed they had a mentoring program. I signed up for that, too. After about six months, I was contacted to participate in the division meetings for my area to help plan the walk and was encouraged to become a mentor, myself. I have met many other wonderful volunteers and advocates this way.
_"I do not feel guilty turning down invitations when I know I will be physically unable to handle it.". Join Facebook groups for patients with your diseases. I had been active on Facebook for a few years, but was not keen on sharing my autommunity there. So, I searched Psoriatic Arthritis and several groups with active memberships. I am currently part of eight different groups of patients with psoriatic arthritis. Many times, I have the chance to give back. Sometimes, I need someone to talk to or need to know who has had a similar experience. It is good to have their support.
3. Join Twitter. I was purposely avoiding Twitter for the longest time. I did not see the point in it. I only joined because during a blogger conference I was urged to. I found they were right! Twitter has opened me up to an enormous autoimmune community. Some of the fellow patients I communicate with most I know only from Twitter.** Here, we lift each other up, champion each other’s causes and share a lot of laughs.**** 4. Seek out bloggers who write about your diseases.** These can be informative as well as entertaining. Bloggers usually try to stay on the cutting edge where information on your diseases is concerned.
5. My (not so) little secret. When all else fails and I am having a really bad day coping with my dual diagnosis of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, I research photos of psoriasis, the really intense ones. My psoriasis is under good control. I am mainly troubled by my psoriatic arthritis. For me, looking at photos of red, inflamed plaques reminds me that others have it much worse than I. It helps me** keep things in perspective**, and even cheers me up a bit. It’s not nice, but it is the truth.
With these tools and methods, I rarely look back and lament my condition. I know that, no matter what flares or stressors come my way, I have the tools I need to soothe and care for myself. I feel I am living my life on my terms, and what could be more satisfying than that? Until next time.