5 Ways to Track Your Habits and Identify Your Triggers
When coupled with medical treatment, healthy lifestyle changes can be an important part of managing your psoriatic condition. Exercise can ease flare-triggering stress and lower your risk of comorbidities, like heart disease and diabetes. Certain dietary changes show promise in reducing the severity of the disease in medical studies. Sleep is important for overall health, wellness, and stress reduction. And mindfulness can also be beneficial to your well‑being.
But maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy. One of the best ways to stay motivated and watch for results is to track your habits, as well as your body’s response.
“Because our environment and what we take in through food and beverage on a daily basis is so closely linked to our overall health, tracking habits can be an eye-opening practice,” says Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and co-author of The Ultimate Candida Diet Program. It leads some people with psoriasis to discover potential flare triggers.
Whatever you’re tracking, there are a few different methods of doing so. Choose whichever you feel would work best for your lifestyle and your goals.
Write in a Journal
Take time each day—either around bedtime or first thing in the morning—to write down your habits. You may also choose to write a few sentences about how you’re feeling and what you’ve got going on in your life, which may help relieve stress, suggests Belinda Morris, a clinical nutritionist.
A blank journal or notebook is totally fine, but if you’re looking for a product made for the task, check out Hello New Me ($7.42 at Amazon). This popular food and exercise journal allows you to easily track your food consumption, water intake, night sleep, daily activities, and exercise. It includes places to write about how you are feeling physically, as well as about how any changes you are making are impacting your daily moods.
Use a Calendar
If you have a calendar in your home or office—or even on your phone—Morris says you can add three things you want to focus on each day. For example, “If you want to build the habits of meditation, supplements, and exercise, you could write or use a symbol for each to draw on the calendar once you have completed them,” says Morris. If you’re using a digital calendar, you can color code your to-dos and also block off time to complete them.
Make a Checklist
If you know what healthy habits you want to commit to each day, Morris suggests you create a checklist to go through each night to see if you’ve completed your daily goals. Take note of any healthy habits you weren’t able to keep in the days preceding a flare.
Keep a Food Diary
If dietary changes are your main focus, you can use a food diary to track your food intake. “I recommend leaving space to write when flare-ups occur,” says Richards. “When you do experience a flare, you can look at foods consumed 24 to 72 hours prior to determine potential triggers.”
BookFactory Food Journal ($7.99 at BookFactory.com) includes sections for tracking calories, carbohydrates, fats, and protein, as well as specific foods, plus your daily water intake. There are also data pages available where you could keep track of your body’s response.
Food tracker apps such as Cara (free or $19.99 per month for premium at Cara.care) can perform the same functions, and are easy for logging diet details while you’re on the go. Cara was originally designed for tracking IBS symptoms, but it can be a great way to track all food-related symptoms, says Morris.
Use an App
If you want to go simple, you can make lists and logs through your Notes or Calendar app. But, if you’re looking for something more custom, look for an app that offers the tracking features you want. There are many to choose from.
Symple (free in the App store) allows you to not only log your daily habits, but to also quickly and easily track any symptoms you may experience on any given day, such as anxiety, trouble sleeping, headaches, and joint stiffness. You can also add how you’re feeling in your own words, whether a flare is starting to creep in or you’re beginning to feel better, says Morris.
Share Your Results with Your Doctor
After a few weeks or more of tracking, you may start to notice patterns you want to further explore. “Psoriasis patients should bring up any concerning foods they believe to be associated with their flare-ups with their doctor,” says Richards. “Their doctor can help them further determine if they may be a trigger and how to mitigate their effects.”
It won’t be an overnight solution but tracking your lifestyle habits can help you to gain better insight into how your psoriasis responds to various choices and changes you make. This may provide you a road map for staying healthy and keeping your flares to a minimum for years to come.