4 Self-Care Tips for Busy Parents with Psoriasis
When you live with psoriatic disease, self-care is crucial. During a flare-up, devoting time and energy to your treatment has to be a priority. But even on good skin days, managing symptoms and avoiding triggers requires dedication. That’s difficult enough for people who only have themselves to care for; but, for parents, this can be extra challenging.
“Add parenting on top of psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis and you’ve got yourself quite a stressful situation,” says Dana Carretta-Stein, L.M.H.C., therapist and owner of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling in Scarsdale, New York. The more stressed you are, the harder it can be to stay mentally and emotionally available for your kids. And feeling like a lousy parent might raise your stress levels even more, leading to a vicious cycle that doesn’t do anyone in your home any favors.
“Learning self-care tips is an impactful way to not only improve your physical health, but to improve your emotional well‑being,” Carretta-Stein says. “Then your kids get to be around a happy, emotionally regulated parent, which is how they learn how to emotionally regulate themselves.” Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas.
To manage your stress levels, Carretta-Stein suggests finding a mindfulness technique that works for you. One that can be done at any time and in any place is diaphragmatic breathing (more commonly known as belly breathing), which involves filling up your belly with air when you inhale, and then slowly drawing your belly button in when you exhale. “Belly breathing can help regulate your heart rate, which, in turn, can turn off your body’s sympathetic nervous system,” Carretta-Stein says. Your body’s sympathetic nervous system controls your fight-or-flight response, which is what increases cortisol levels and causes those feelings of stress.
Another mindfulness technique is meditation. Don’t be put off if the thought of sitting cross-legged in a room with lots of other cross-legged people is your idea of hell. “Meditation is a general term,” Carretta-Stein says. “There are so many things that can be meditative.” Explore what works for you. Your meditation might be painting, or yoga, or going for a long walk. Esther Potter, a mom in Seattle, Washington, says her weekly yoga class leaves her feeling relaxed and revitalized. She goes back to her children feeling better equipped to give them whatever they need from her.
Make Time for You
It’s important to carve out “me time,” for the sake of your mental and physical health. If you don’t take regular breaks from the demands of parenting, which takes enormous amounts of energy, you’ll end up with nothing left for any other aspect of your life.
“I often tell parents they need to take a minimum of 30 minutes a day just for them,” says Amy Rollo, LPC-S, a counselor at Heights Family Counseling in Houston, Texas. “This can be taking a bubble bath, working out, journaling, or going to the gym. No matter how busy you are, you need time to recuperate each day. In order to take the best care of your children, you need to make sure your own needs are taken care of, as well.”
Erika Campbell, in Dallas, Texas, agrees that taking time for herself is important. But as a single parent who works full-time, she says it hasn’t always been easy for her to find that precious 30 minutes. Finally, she found a simple answer: asking for help.
“I used to feel guilty if I asked for help because I was sleep-deprived from a really bad itch, or didn’t want to get in the pool with my kids because my legs were covered in scales,” Erika explains. “I had to remind myself that taking some time out from parenting during a flare-up wasn’t a weakness—it was a necessity.” Erika now has a small, trusted group of people she can call on—sometimes with short notice—if her psoriasis is giving her a particularly challenging day.
For some people, their biggest support comes from others with psoriatic disease. “There are a few other parents at my local psoriatic arthritis support group, and we probably talk about our kids 70 percent of the time,” says Tina Lowe, in Michigan City, Indiana. “We talk about the challenges faced by all parents, not just parents with psoriasis. But because managing the disease is another huge thing we all have in common, we get so much comfort from one another, just by sharing our everyday struggles.”
Keep Kids Informed
Finally, remember that psoriatic disease doesn’t have to be a dark secret you hide from your kids. “As soon as I thought my kids were old enough to understand, I explained what psoriatic arthritis is and how it can interfere with my everyday life,” Tina says. “I was surprised by how easily they accepted it for what it is—simply a part of me and something that affects our family unit, in the way that lots of other things do. They understand when I’m having a bad day, and they give me space—and lots of cuddles when I need them. They have my back, because they know the score. That makes a huge difference.”