9 Tips for Psoriatic Arthritis Self-Careby Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer
If you are living with psoriatic arthritis, you need to take care of your own health first and foremost. As a caregiver to an older parent with dementia, I recently discovered that not taking care of myself could lead to a serious flare-up of my own disease. Read ahead for steps you can take to care for yourself and feel your best.
Understand Stress Is a Trigger
Stress is a well-known exacerbating factor of psoriatic disease. Stress can cause your immune system to overrespond and then lead to a flare-up. If you have recently been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, keeping a diary may be helpful in determining the connections between the stressors in your life and the impact on your disease. From this information, you can be aware of situations that may need to be avoided in the future.
Know Your Limits
With or without psoriatic arthritis, we all have our physical, intellectual, and emotional limits. If you are constantly reaching beyond your limits, your body may respond with an overactivation of the nervous system that could cause an increase in fatigue and soreness. Understanding your limits is not a sign of weakness, rather a sign of strength that you are in tune with your own needs.
Communicate Your Limits
What you share about your condition is always a personal decision. However, especially if you play a leadership role in your family, it is extremely important that you educate others who depend on you about your personal limitations. Having this conversation with the ones we love will model for them the importance of honoring our capabilities, so we can feel our best and be there for them when they need us.
Put Yourself on Your To-do List
One of my favorite parts of working with my one-on-one clients is getting them to put themselves on their weekly to-do lists. I recommend that at the end of the weekend, they spend time planning and write down everything they hope to accomplish in the week ahead. Adding a column to their list that says “me” assures that they will take at least a portion of their week for themselves and their own self-care.
Have a Plan for a Flare-up
Self-care means being proactive in your treatment. For example, if you know what treatment options you will have available if things get suddenly worse, this can reduce the worry. If you are a parent or caregiver, having someone available on standby to pitch in if needed can also make you feel better.
While there is no specific diet for psoriatic arthritis, dietary modifications can help change a person’s metabolic profile and be one part of the self-care picture according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Consuming foods that are known to have anti-inflammatory properties such as fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables may be helpful. Sugar, alcohol, and processed foods should all be consumed in moderation.
For all the ways smoking might seem like self-care for you, it’s not, especially if you have psoriatic arthritis. There is a definite link between psoriatic disease and smoking. In fact, one study found that the risk for developing psoriasis was close to double for those with a long history of smoking. Smoking is also associated with poorer physical function in those with psoriatic arthritis.
Maintaining a healthy exercise routine is especially important if you have psoriatic arthritis. Strong muscles will reduce the strain on your joints. Exercise can also reduce your chances for depression. And, even though researchers are just beginning to understand the impact of exercise on psoriatic arthritis, many different studies have shown that regular physical activity improves your overall well-being if you are living with arthritis.
Respect Your Rhythms
We each have our own unique physical rhythms. For example, some of us may have more energy in the morning and others in the evening. If you have psoriatic arthritis, your rhythms may change drastically depending on whether your condition is active or in remission. Even in remission, you may need to not overdo it and give your body the rest it needs. Respecting your body’s need to balance rest and activity will keep you feeling your best.