I was diagnosed with psoriasis more than 28 years ago, when I was just five years old. At the time my mum took control of my treatment. In a world without the internet or Google, she only had doctors’ recommendations and the advice of others. Luckily since then the world has evolved, and we now have access to a wealth of resources. But with that comes the obvious downfall: not all information is correct and there will always be people selling that much desired, but nonexistent ‘cure.’
Simply by living with the condition for so long and paying attention to certain patterns, I’ve realized that lifestyle and environmental factors can play a big role in your condition. While everyone’s psoriasis responds and reacts to things in different ways, it is worth spending some time looking at the impact of external factors. This can help you and your doctor better understand your psoriasis.
This can feel very much like trial and error, and like with most things, it takes time and patience. Making too many changes at once can often leave you feeling overwhelmed and will add to the stress, so it’s best to make small and meaningful changes—choose one thing at a time to change or try, track it, assess it, decide if it’s worthwhile for you and once it has become part of your daily habits, focus on the next thing.
Here are a few areas I’ve found worth exploring:
As someone who easily feels stressed and overwhelmed, I was always on the lookout for things to help alleviate these feelings. No matter how many people told me to get more sleep, I would not listen. It was only after I had a baby and sleep became an unreachable luxury that I realized the impact sleep had on my psoriasis. By setting a strict bedtime and sticking to it I was able to prioritize 8 hours of (mostly) uninterrupted sleep, and started to really understand the powerful healing of sleep. Have trouble drifting off? Try banning technology from your room, switching your phone off an hour before you sleep, taking a calming bath or practice meditation.
I’ve heard from many people that eating certain foods can trigger flares. For example, I heard tomatoes can cause flares, but I love tomatoes! I have them in some shape or form with every meal. When I was looking at my diet and eliminating the foods I thought were triggering my psoriasis, I kept a food diary in order to identify the main culprits. After time, I realized tomatoes didn’t trigger me in the way it did others (thankfully!). Listen to your own body, but I always try to cook fresh, limit my diary intake and avoid processed foods and refined sugars.
3. Skincare routine
I’m always amazed how much the weather, the type of clothing, seating position and many other things in your day can irritate or dry out your skin. Like with your diet, it may take some trial and error to learn what personal hygiene products can help your skin. The cycle can feel endless. But it is so worth it. For myself, I learned that a non-fragranced moisturizer is essential—I always carry a little travel-sized case on me so I can reapply it throughout the day.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hit the gym or head to the swimming pool; those places can be daunting at the best of times, let alone when you’re mid-flare! However, staying active is so important for your body and mind, whether you have psoriasis or not. Find an activity that works for you and try and incorporate it into daily life. Remember that it doesn’t have to be public, either.—I personally like at-home yoga, or loading a session up on YouTube, applying a bit of my favorite moisturizer to any sore patches and spending time stretching my body, and using breathing techniques to let go of my daily stresses.
5. Support system
A well-known phrase goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved.” I have found this to be so true when dealing with the more difficult days. There is so much support out there and so many people post on social media (or on this site) to share the highs and lows of living with their conditions. Hearing first-hand from others can help empower everyone living with psoriasis to feel comfortable in their own skin. If or when you feel comfortable, join others and share your story here on Let Me Be Clear.
You deserve to feel confident in your skin, but how do you have a clear conversation about your psoriasis goals with your doctor? Sometimes speaking up can be the hardest part.
Be clear about your goals. The power to speak up, feel confident and demand the best care is within you. Sharing your story could be your next step to feeling free from psoriasis—and possibly inspire others to do the same.