If you are living with psoriasis, you know that vigilance and consistency is important to help manage symptoms. The holiday season can throw your routine out the window. During the weeks before and after the holiday, you might add shopping, travel, social engagements, and entertaining to an already full schedule. You might sleep less, eat more, or eat poorly and skip exercise. You might not see self-care as very important during this time. All of this added stress takes its toll and can worsen or trigger psoriasis flares. But, with careful planning and a few precautions, you can help prevent your psoriasis from taking over your life during the holiday season.
Psoriasis and stress
The holiday season is stressful. Besides the lack of routine, the extra tasks that need to be completed, you might also worry about your finances. Stress is one of the major triggers for psoriasis. It is important to make sure you manage your stress levels during the holidays. Here are some tips for doing so:
Review your expectations. One of the reasons for stress and disappointment during the holiday season is unrealistic expectations. Remember that everything doesn’t need to be perfect and everyone isn’t suddenly going to be filled with love for people they don’t like. Things happen and people don’t always get along. If your expectations are that everything will be picture-perfect, you are bound to be disappointed. Make sure your expectations fit reality.
Keep it simple. Make the holiday season easier on yourself. If you are entertaining, make it a pot-luck. If you are buying gifts, consider gift cards. If you hate wrapping gifts, use gift bags. The holiday season is about spending time with friends and family, not the trimmings.
Lower your financial stress. Before shopping, set a budget for gifts. Decide how much you can spend and stick to it. If you are spending less than previous years, let your family know ahead of time if that makes you more comfortable. Consider gifts that don’t cost much, such as offering free babysitting, cooking a dinner, or giving your elderly relative the gift of cookies for a year and baking a batch each month.
Set aside time for yourself. In the rush of the holiday season, it can be hard to find time to relax. Build 15 minutes for yourself into your daily schedule. Use this time to sit and do nothing, listen to music, read, do activities you enjoy, take a walk, or get a massage. Whatever you choose to do, it should be just for you.
Use stress reduction strategies. Incorporate exercise, yoga, meditation, biofeedback or other stress reduction techniques into your day. Some apps to help include:
To help you sleep better:
To monitor your exercise:
In addition to reducing your stress level, there are lifestyle changes you can make during the holiday season to reduce your chances of experiencing a psoriasis flare.
- Moderate your alcohol intake. Holiday parties are notorious for free-flowing alcohol, and you might partake a bit too much. Alcohol, however, can trigger psoriasis and might interfere with medications you are taking. Before indulging, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about whether you need to avoid alcohol altogether.
- Quit smoking. You might feel that smoking helps you deal better with stress and difficult situations. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, smoking can worsen your skin condition. With the New Year only weeks away, this might be a good time to talk to your doctor or join a smoking cessation program.
- Get your** flu shot** . ‘Tis the season for colds, flus, and other viruses. Infections cause your immune system to activate. When you have an autoimmune disorder such as psoriasis, that means that you can experience a flare. The flu shot is one precaution you can take to avoid illness.
- Eat healthy. When you are rushed or at a social event, it is easy to grab a quick meal or go for the least healthy option on the table. Eating healthy boosts your immune system and helps you fight off infections. Some people also experience flares as a result of certain foods. Know your food triggers and if needed, bring along healthy snacks that you know aren’t going to cause your psoriasis to flare.
- Modify your environment. Warm, heated air inside your home or workplace is usually dry air, which can dry out your skin. Use a humidifier both at home and at work (there are small, desktop humidifiers available), whenever possible. Turn down your heat at home to the lowest setting that you can bear.
- Wear appropriate clothing outdoors. The cold and sometimes windy winter air can quickly dry out your skin. Keep your skin covered with long pants, coats, hats, and gloves. Layer your clothing so you can remove layers when indoors to avoid overheating. Stay away from wool fabrics as they tend to irritate the skin. Using natural fabrics, such as cotton or silk as your bottom layer is best.
- Moisturize your skin . During the cold months, it is especially important to keep your skin moisturized. Use a thick, creamy moisturizer. If you have problem areas, talk to your doctor about using a moisturizer and covering the area with plastic wrap overnight.
- Drink plenty of water. Drinking water is important year-round. It helps to hydrate you from the inside.
- Follow your treatment plan. You might not think you have time to see your doctor or you might skip daily skin routines but this can lead to psoriasis flares. Talk to your doctor about what steps you should take and what changes in your treatment will best benefit you during the holiday season.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.