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Take Better Care of Your Psoriatic Arthritis with These Tips

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When I was first diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) about six years ago, I did not realize how much it would change the way I manage my health. I had to adapt different aspects of my life in order to maintain a more pain-free existence. It took several years, but here are some tips I have learned that help me manage PsA better.

  1. Practice clean eating. PsA causes higher inflammation in the body. To help reduce inflammation, choose berries and green, leafy vegetables instead of processed foods. Eat beans and whole grains, which are loaded with fiber, in place of white rice. Also, fish like salmon and tuna have omega-3 fatty acids, which assist with inflammation reduction. Eating whole foods versus processed foods can also help decrease inflammation. Less inflammation means more energy to engage in extra activities.  
  2. Use pacing techniques. Instead of tackling a large task all at once, break it up into smaller segments. One technique I implement is my “take 10” plan. If you break down activities into 10-minute increments, it can help you feel more productive. For instance, instead of cleaning the whole house in one day, I concentrate on a room per day. I will take 10 minutes to clean the bathroom sinks, then go back later and take 10 minutes or so to clean the shower, etc. Splitting up the tasks helps prevent my body from getting worn out, while still getting chores done.  
  3. Use mindful meditation. Mindful meditation can help train your mind to stay in the present moment, rather than ruminate over the past or worry about the future. Living with chronic illness can make it easy for your thoughts to be consumed by what complications could occur later. Mindful meditation has helped focus my cluttered mind on the current moment, rather than worry about what “could” happen next. While listening to soothing sounds or music, let thoughts come in, acknowledge them, then let them go — just like watching clouds pass in the sky. Concentrate on sounds rather than on thoughts. Do this for at least three minutes at a time, or more if time permits. This trains the mind not to ponder arbitrary thoughts excessively. It also helps relax the body, which can reduce pain levels.
  4. Keep moving. Even though pain can deter anyone from exercising, it is important to continue to move. This relieves stiffness, as well as prevents atrophy of the muscles.  Additionally exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which help reduce the sense of pain. Many people associate exercise with running a mile, but any kind of movement can be considered exercise.  When going to the grocery store, walk down every aisle, even if you don’t need anything there. Go to your favorite clothing store, and walk the entire perimeter.  When you park in the parking lot, take the last space farthest from the door. Finally, while watching TV or cooking, walk in place, or do squats and lunges. You need to move more now in order to keep moving in the future.
  5. Engage in social activities. I know it is easy to isolate socially while living with PsA, but it is important to our mental health to interact within the neighborhood. Being social allows you to connect with society and promotes a feeling of security and happiness. Take a class, pick a hobby, join an online group or volunteer in the community. For instance, I enjoy making my own greeting cards. I found an organization that will take my cards and distribute them to hospitals and senior homes. This gives me a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
  6. Go to a good therapist. I initially started going to psychotherapy because I also live with major depression. However, I discovered that therapy also helped teach me coping skills for dealing with my adverse feelings toward living with chronic illness. Furthermore I have gained confidence in myself and no longer fear the future. I also finally grieved the loss I feel as a result of my illnesses. It took work but choosing to go to therapy has been the best decision I have made in my life.

By making some modifications, one can live a fulfilling life with PSA.  

Originally published: January 22, 2021
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