There’s no right way to practice self-care. It looks different for all of us—ultimately, good self-care consists of whatever helps you feel cared for. That’s true for psoriatic arthritis self-care tips, too. For people with psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune condition that causes psoriasis symptoms plus issues like joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, self-care can be a huge help in managing the condition.
“For people with arthritis, everyday needs to be a bit of a self-care day, because you have to think of yourself before you think of anything else,” Tanya G., 42, who was diagnosed 11 years ago but has had symptoms of psoriatic arthritis most of her life, tells SELF. Focusing on little things that can make your life easier—like having the right tools at your desk, or a talk-to-text app that you can use to email when your hands are flared—is self-care. Learning how to take things slowly and listening to your body is also self-care, says Annelyse A., 25, who creates artwork advocating for chronic illness on her Instagram account, Resting Itch Face. Surrounding yourself with people who care and support you? Also self-care.
Self-care simply boils down to taking care of yourself, says Tanya, sometimes in the most basic ways, and on an ongoing basis: “Self-care is an everyday thing.”
Here, Tanya, Annelyse, and Nitika C., 39, founder and CEO of Chronicon, a platform dedicated to elevating the lives of people with chronic illness, share the self-care practices and tips that have helped them live better with psoriatic arthritis.
1. Be prepared for bad days.
“You have to know what self-care means for you,” says Tanya. “For me, that means being prepared for bad days. Bad days will happen; they’re not going to magically go away. So, what is going to be in my house that is going to support me on a bad day?” For Tanya, this means having a few things on hand: bath bombs, a good book on her Kindle, and medication she can use during a serious flare. It means thinking ahead and doing laundry on a good day so her compression socks are clean and ready when she needs them. And, of course, it also means having her favorite comfort foods, like chocolate, on hand.
“When I was really at my sickest in my 20s, I think the biggest thing that helped me was mindfulness,” Nitika tells SELF. “I didn’t grow up knowing about it, but it really changed me. It made me feel like I could really help myself feel better on the inside, which I saw helped how I was feeling on the outside.” Nitika says she noticed her stress levels go down when she learned how to stay present instead of letting the pain take over. Tanya also meditates—she swears by the Calm app, specifically a training program the app has for pain management. “I do it probably at least once a month to remember the steps for how to breathe through pain,” she says.
3. Laugh often.
While that “laughter is the best medicine” doesn’t necessarily apply when it comes to chronic pain, it can still make a difference in how you’re coping. “I’ve always known that friends and laughter were incredibly important,” Nikita says. When she was younger and unable to get out of the house easily, she would call a friend to just talk. Not about psoriatic arthritis or the pain she was in, but just 20-something things like a cute boy or a weird dream or something that happened on a TV show. “I remember that being so helpful. And even in times when that wasn’t enough because maybe I was in so much pain or had a really big flare-up, I started getting into the habit of looking at funny videos online, like Carpool Karaoke,” she adds. “It’s stupid and fun and makes me so happy, and it’s free.”
4. Surround yourself with supportive people.
For Tanya, self-care means making sure to surround herself with people who know that she may have to cancel plans and won’t judge her or get angry at her for it. On the flip side, that also means distancing herself from people who just don’t get it—or rather, those who don’t even attempt to understand. “There are some people who don’t get it who want to get it and say hurtful things because they just don’t get it but want to be there for you. And then there are people who just think you’re faking, and those are the people you have to distance yourself from,” Tanya says.
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