Mind-Body Therapies to Soothe Psoriasis

The stress-psoriasis relationship is a tricky one. Stress is a strong factor in psoriasis, both in triggering the disorder and exacerbating symptoms. Conversely, a psoriasis flare can make stress and anxiety worse.

"Psoriasis is definitely a disease in which stress plays a role, so stress management is important," says Neil Korman, MD, PhD, the director of the Murdough Family Center for Psoriasis at Case Western Reserve University Hospitals in Cleveland.

What can you do to nip stress in the bud? Mind-body practices, such as meditation, biofeedback, aromatherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may help you tune in to yourself, begin to manage any inner turmoil, and in turn help bring relief from your physical discomfort. "These are all things that could help people reduce their stress and better manage psoriasis,” Dr. Korman says.

Meditate to Quiet Your Mind and Relax Your Body

Some forms of meditation involve sitting in a quiet place and focusing on your breathing to help you relax. With meditative disciplines like tai chi, you repeat physical movements that put you in touch with your mind and body. But all forms of meditation entail quiet concentration or self-reflection to relax your body and calm your mind.

Most meditation practices date back to ancient Eastern religious practices, particularly from Japan, China, and India. There’s current science behind it, too: Meditating may reduce chronic pain, anxiety, and stress hormone levels, according to the National Institutes of Health. And research has shown that people with psoriasis who added meditation-based interventions to ultraviolet light therapy reported improvements in their symptoms.

Reduce Stress Through Biofeedback Information

With biofeedback, meditation meets technology. Therapists use devices to track indicators of stress, such as blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, or skin temperature. While you use relaxation techniques to release stress, a monitor tracks how that technique is changing your body functions, possibly reducing your blood pressure or slowing your heart rate. Biofeedback may help you better control anxiety and stress and, in turn, reduce psoriasis flares.

Calm Symptoms and Stress With Spa Therapy

A good soak in mineral waters can relax the body, calm the mind, and soften psoriasis plaques. The National Psoriasis Foundation notes that spa therapy — mineral or saline spa baths, particularly when combined with exposure to ultraviolet rays — has been effective for some people with psoriasis. Essentially, it’s re-creating the Dead Sea experience of sunbathing and soaking in the salty water. While you can’t replicate this in your own tub, you can still gain some stress-reducing benefits from bathing at home. Just be sure to quickly rinse the body with warm (not hot) water when you’re done and then apply a moisturizer after you soak, as salt and minerals can dry the skin.

Soothe Yourself With the Scents of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy involves the use of pleasant fragrances — essential oils extracted from flowers or plants — to help you relax. These scents can be diffused through the air, applied with massage oil, or soaked up in a tub filled with aromatic bath salts.

Aromatherapy is thought to work by sending chemical messages to the mood and emotion centers of the brain. People with psoriasis can benefit both from the calming effects of the natural fragrances and the antibacterial and antifungal properties of certain essential oils. The National Psoriasis Foundation states that chamomile, tea tree, rose, and lavender oils are among the best oils for psoriasis treatment. But be careful using these near cracked psoriasis skin, because fragrance can aggravate healing skin.

Change Thought Patterns With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT focuses on the way that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors interact with each other. Popularized in the 1970s, CBT has proved successful in reducing anxiety and depression and treating a number of mood disorders, according to the American Psychological Association. Through CBT, you can uncover negative patterns of thinking that lead to stress and then learn skills that enable you to change those thought patterns.

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