5 Ways to Boost Your Mood When You’re Feeling Down
Psoriasis is a disease of highs and lows. During a flare-up, many people feel hopeless, isolated, and depressed. Even when your symptoms improve, it can feel like you are constantly on guard, worrying about when and where the next flare will strike. Psoriasis may be a heavy burden, but there are things you can do to help lighten the load.
Take Baby Steps
When itching keeps you up all night or inflammation makes it hurt to walk, even getting out of bed can feel like too much of a struggle.
“Rather than sitting in shame, accepting and honoring that recovery is a process—and that on certain days it may not be possible to get out of bed—can actually be quite freeing for those that are struggling,” says Haley Neidich, LCSW, a therapist and mental health counselor.
Remind yourself that psoriasis is a marathon and not a sprint. There will be some bad days, but they don’t have to consume you. Focus on what’s doable. For example, if you can’t take a shower, try washing your face or brushing your teeth instead.
“Propping up with a pillow, opening the blinds, and putting on some nice music can help to shift the mood,” says Neidich.
Let in Some Light, Literally
When our mood turns dark, we often unwittingly adjust our environment to match that mood. We may draw the curtains, turn out the lights, and stay inside for days at a time. This can feel good in the moment, but it’s actually helping to reinforce our negative mood. When we don’t get enough sunlight, it throws off our circadian rhythm and causes our brains to produce too much melatonin, the sleep hormone. This leaves us feeling tired, sad, and lethargic.
“Sitting in a place of sunshine or getting outdoors for just a moment can be enough to create a surge of serotonin that gives a mood-shifting boost,” says Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear.
To break the cycle of depression, take whatever steps you can to increase your sun exposure. This may include opening the curtains, as mentioned before, or, even better, going outside to get the mail or sit on your front stoop for a few minutes. If your body will allow it, try taking a short walk around your neighborhood or heading out to a local nature trail. Your body and mind will thank you.
Engage with the World
Depression is very common in the psoriasis community, with isolation undoubtably a contributing factor. After a psoriasis diagnosis, it can take time to get used to your new reality. Many people turn inward and try to wait out a bad flare by staying home for days or weeks at a time. But human beings are very social creatures. To live our best lives, we need social enrichment.
So, to improve your mood, find a way to engage with society in a way that feels comfortable to you. No need to start with your high school reunion!
“Celebrate small interactions with others, rather than feeling like it's all or nothing,” says Neidich. “This means engaging in smaller social interactions, like responding to text messages or stepping outside the house to breathe in fresh air and wave to a neighbor.”
If you don’t feel comfortable going to a party or a restaurant, go ahead and skip it, but then call one friend or relative and tell them about how you’re feeling. A quick chat is enough to remind us that we are not alone.
Take Back Control
Psoriasis can make some people feel as if they’ve lost control of their life and their body. But our sense of control is paramount to our mental health. Without it, we become helpless and hopeless. Without a sense of control, it’s common to stop trying to get better and resign oneself to the belief that nothing we do matters. Don’t let yourself get trapped in this cycle. Instead, find ways to assert control and develop a sense of mastery and accomplishment.
“Invest in yourself,” suggests psychotherapist Tasia Milicevic, LCSW. “Take all opportunities to develop yourself in healthy ways. Do things that fuel your sense of self and your self-worth.”
In other words, get good at something. Some people find a sense of accomplishment through the practice of physical activities like yoga or weightlifting. Others choose to acquire new skills, like learning to cook or speak a new language. It’s totally fine to start small here, too. Even downloading a new game on your phone or substituting an hour of video games (active behavior) for an hour of television (passive behavior) may help. While excessive gaming is not recommended, spending some time learning and mastering a new game can help improve cognition and elevate mood.
You can start getting out in the world, feel as if you’re regaining control of your life, and taking small steps toward happiness, but still end up lying in bed at night obsessing over the injustices in your life. Ultimately, you will need to stop the negative thoughts reinforcing your depressed mood.
“Rumination is when you consistently think about something, such as your skin, and it often leads you down a rabbit hole,” says clinical psychologist Tom DiBlasi, Ph.D. “Stopping the cycle can greatly enhance your quality of life.”
Talking with a qualified therapist is the best way to identify and change unhealthy thought patterns. There are some things you can do on your own, too.
During the day, you can use engaging activities to snap you out of a rumination cycle. Play a quick game on Happify, download a crossword app, or flip through your photo library to remind yourself of good times. If negative thoughts take over at night, try naming five things for which you’re grateful. Start with the basics, like being thankful for a warm bed, a safe neighborhood, or a comforting pet. It may sound cheesy, but thousands of research studies on gratitude show that it really works.