6 Self-Care Rituals People with Psoriasis Swear By
Sheila Warner, 30, a nursing assistant living in Bangor, Maine says she didn’t even know what self-care meant when she was diagnosed with psoriasis at age 11. But she quickly learned she needed to take conscious steps to take care of her body and mind in order to cope with symptoms, ward off flare-ups, and love herself.
Research confirms that you can help dial down your symptoms with a regular self-care practice. But if you don’t know exactly how to incorporate “me time” into your busy life, that’s understandable. Making time for yourself is a tall order, especially when you’re dealing with a chronic condition on top of everything else.
The good news: Many self-care activities can be worked into your established daily habits, such as washing your face and brushing your teeth. Others may become a welcome break—and you only have to start with a few minutes a day.
To help you find your best self-care routine, here are a few ways people with psoriasis put themselves first.
1. Moisturize Every Morning and Evening
Beginning and ending your day with a personalized skincare regimen is essential for psoriasis treatment, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Sheila also sees moisturizing as one of her most important self-care rituals.
While she applies moisturizing lotion, Sheila does an objective scan of her skin to see if it’s better or worse than the previous day and checks in with herself on how she’s feeling physically and emotionally. After that, she uses oil-based products to soften the psoriasis on her face, plus a thick salve for “angry spots” that are extra itchy or thick.
“I enjoy taking this time to care for my skin,” she says. “I feel I don’t always take the time that I need for myself, and knowing that, for 30 minutes, I’m keeping one small promise to myself is a huge mood-lifter for me.”
An added benefit to this routine is that most topical prescription medications for psoriasis are recommended for twice-daily use, so it can help you keep up with your treatment plan, too. It’s best to apply prescription medications before moisturizer. For specific recommendations, get advice from your dermatologist.
2. Take in Nature and Soak Up the Sun
Lisa Baynes, a 48-year-old cyclist and runner living with psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis in Union Point, Georgia, has always had a passion for biking and uses much of her free time to hit the trails with friends. Her advice? Find a way to get outside every day.
Daily sunlight exposure, aka heliotherapy, can boost your mood and could also help reduce the occurrence of psoriasis. “It’s most definitely helped me,” says Lisa. “My skin clears up, my mental state is much better, and I’ve noticed I don’t hurt as much.” (Also, one of the treatments for psoriasis is narrowband UVB (311 to 312 nm), which is one small spectrum of sunlight. This therapy is often given in-office or at home two to three times a week.)
Sheila agrees that spending time outdoors is beneficial. To nurture her soul and help her skin heal, she goes kayaking. “It’s a newish hobby of mine, and one I fell in love with very quickly,” she says. “The peace of nature, flow of water, basking in the sunshine. I love loading up on sunscreen and paddling away.”
Check in with your healthcare provider on how to safely spend time in the sun. Try to limit sun exposure to the early mornings or late afternoons when the sunrays are less strong. Also, avoid sunburn (which can be a trigger for new psoriasis plaques) by wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 any time you’re outdoors, reapplying sunscreen every two hours, and wearing UV protective (UPF) clothing.
3. Adopt an Anti-inflammatory Diet
After consulting with a nutritionist, Lisa says she began eating a healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, including olive oil, nuts, fruits, and veggies. Elayne Goulding, 61, also focuses on nutrition as a form of self-care. She says removing processed foods from her diet and eating more fish and salads has helped her feel better after being diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriatic conditions are linked to inflammation in the body. So, lowering inflammation with nutritious foods has the potential to help clear up your skin, reduce symptoms, and lower your risk of conditions related to psoriasis, such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, according to the AAD. Studies show that sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet, like the Mediterranean diet, which includes a high proportion of fruits and vegetables, legumes, cereals, bread, fish, fruit, nuts, and extra-virgin olive oil, may help slow the progression of psoriasis.
4. Move Your Body
For Elayne, exercise is a pillar of self-care. Buying a bike marked a clear turning point in her recovery after her diagnosis left her “practically bedridden,” she says. After she developed shoulder problems, she took up running for the first time.
“I slowly started running to one lamppost and walking to the next,” she says. “Gradually, I built up to running farther and found I was actually able to do this. I was amazed—I expected knee pain and ankle pain, but, so far, I’ve managed and now run three times a week.”
Elayne says exploring new routes and listening to music as she goes has helped her lose weight, build the strength to take some pressure off of her joints, and boost her confidence. In addition to lowering inflammation and keeping your joints loose, movement can enhance mood and ease stress and anxiety.
“Regular exercise helps me feel physically and mentally strong enough to withstand the effects of psoriasis,” says Aishah Iqbal, M.D., a 29-year-old pediatric doctor based in London. After a move to the countryside, she’s begun to go on regular exploratory walks and has found that the more steps she logs, the more relaxed she feels.
If you have psoriatic arthritis and you’re unsure what type of exercise will be best for you, enlist the help of a physical therapist, who can suggest adjustments you can make to stay in motion, advises the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF).
5. Treat Yourself to a Massage
“The first thing you hear about when you’re diagnosed with psoriasis is, ‘Manage the stress!’” says Sheila. “Stress is a huge trigger for a lot of people living with this condition.”
Aishah finds that going in for a professional massage from time to time helps her manage her stress. “Being able to relax like this is so key,” she says. Her massages also help reduce itching afterward, thanks to the moisturizing products the massage therapist uses.
The NPF confirms that massage therapy can be beneficial for people living with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Just make sure to let the massage therapist know about your diagnosis so they can modify their approach to avoid causing pain or triggering flare-ups with products you’re sensitive to. And if there’s a lotion or oil you prefer they use, bring it with you.
6. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
For managing the mental-health challenges of living with psoriatic arthritis, Lisa finds mindful meditation helpful—and there’s research to back up its ability to help people living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
In one study, people with psoriasis who were undergoing phototherapy sessions found their skin cleared faster when they were regularly listening to audio meditations. And other studies have shown that mindful meditation can help reduce both short-term and chronic pain.
Finding Your Self-Care Routine
For self-care while living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, it helps to start with the fundamentals: Create a set routine, stock up on wholesome foods, and make time for activities that make you feel good in your body and help you relieve stress.
Remember to trust yourself. You likely know best what you need. Sometimes, self-care is as simple as taking more breaks to breathe through worsening symptoms or de-stressing with comfort TV or dog cuddles at the end of a challenging day.
You May Also Like:
Want to Read More?
Access all of Twill Care’s content, community, and experts for free!
Already a member? Login