Stress, Anxiety, & Psoriatic Arthritis
Stress has become quite the buzzword in the last 5-10 years or so. It has been shown to not only impact emotional health but physical health as well. Stress can raise your blood pressure, cause weight gain, or even contribute to a stroke. When it comes to dealing with stress, we can’t take it lightly. Learning how stress can impact psoriatic arthritis can be the first step to having a few more “good” days.
No matter how Zen of a perspective you have on life, chances are, some amount of stress plays a role in your daily life. While some stress is good (motivating and energizing), too much can be downright debilitating. Often associated with anxiety, it can be difficult to tell where stress ends and anxiety begins.
The relationship between stress and physical pain
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.” Looking at it this way, the key to controlling stress, and therefore anxiety, is to change how we manage the response to stress in our lives. By doing a more effective job at managing our stress response, we can (potentially) impact the relationship between anxiety and psoriatic arthritis pain.
Sounds simple, right? (Ummm, no.)
Managing stress responses
But therein lies the problem. Life with psoriatic arthritis just isn’t that easy. Stress responses, and the ensuing anxiety, run deep in the psoriatic arthritis community. After all, why wouldn’t it? Psoriatic arthritis is an unpredictable, incurable, chronic condition that leaves no area of our lives untouched. Relationships, finances, and our overall sense of well-being are all at the mercy of the disease. It’s no wonder that most of us feel like we fell out of the emotional health tree and hit every branch on the way down.
How we cope with stress is changed by PsA
If only we could be consciously aware of how we manage our stress, we could affect how it impacts our psoriatic arthritis. Of course, this is not a groundbreaking idea at all. We all have certain go-to things that we do when we feel stressed. You may eat a giant bowl of ice cream (guilty!). You may knock back a bottle of wine (oops!). Hundreds of dollars may be spent shopping or getting a massage (ouch!). But even our coping mechanisms for dealing with stress are impacted by psoriatic arthritis.
Where I once saw the beauty of a giant bowl of ice cream, now I see the stomach pain from the dairy. Where I once was able to block out work stress with a lovely red wine, now only leaves my joints aching and my body overwhelmed with fatigue. And shopping? I can barely make it through a whole store without stopping for a rest. All of my favorite ways to manage stress have been stolen from me by psoriatic arthritis. Sad, isn’t it?
We need to find new ways
But as they say, knowing is half the battle. The sad part really is the fact that it took me years, literally years, to figure out that my “usual” way of dealing with stress doesn’t work very well when you have psoriatic arthritis. I can’t eat my feelings. I can’t drink away the pain. Buying a new outfit won’t cover the 15 pounds I gained from the steroids. Nope. I have to find something better, some healthier and more productive ways to deal with the stress.
So what do I do now?
I wish I could say that I avoid the bowls of chocolate ice cream all together, but I don’t. However, I have cut back quite a bit and only use it for extreme emergencies. These days, I try and find stress relief by coloring, journaling, or even (very gentle) yoga. Sure, it’s a far cry from the beauty of a bottle of wine or hours of window shopping, but it works. And hey, with the joy of the internet, I can now shop all around the world. Win-Win!
When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter a whole lot how you deal with the stress, the important thing is to have steps in place for when everything just becomes a little too much to handle.