Stress is a common trigger for a psoriasis flare-up and can exacerbate pain associated with psoriatic arthritis. According to a study published in September 2015 in the journal Dermatology Research and Practice, stress and mood disorders can even worsen the severity of psoriatic disease.

“Stress is clearly bad for health and may be related to the development of the disease,” says Alexis Ogdie-Beatty, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “Being in a stressed-out state can make you more sensitive to pain.”

Managing stress is paramount for people with psoriatic arthritis to live happily and healthfully.

Below are five effective stress-busting techniques to help manage stress with psoriatic arthritis.

Meditation

Research has shown that meditation has a number of benefits, including improved concentration, increased levels of happiness, and reduced stress. Meditation has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. A study published in July 2016 in Biological Psychiatry found that individuals who participated in a three-day meditation retreat showed brain changes that contributed to better attention and executive control. Also, blood samples taken from study participants four months later showed that members who participated in the meditation retreat had lower levels of a biomarker for inflammation than individuals who went on a three-day retreat that taught them to relax without meditation techniques.

Meditation is used in a number of healthcare settings to help patients manage conditions such as cancer, heart disease, pain, and sleep problems. The Arthritis Foundation notes that meditation can also be beneficial for relieving aching joints.

Meditation can be done in private or in a group setting. You can find meditation tapes or DVDs online to help you get started. Local community centers, churches, or schools may also offer classes in meditation.

“Some employers have mindfulness programs — meditation, imagery, and breathing techniques to calm yourself down,” Dr. Ogdie-Beatty says. 

Exercise

Not only can exercise help psoriatic arthritis patients manage pain symptoms, but it can also help you reduce stress associated with the condition.

“Whatever it is that a person can practically do and can enjoy doing will be beneficial,” says Philip Mease, MD, director of the rheumatology clinical research division at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.

Good exercise options include aerobics, biking, tai chi, Pilates, or yoga. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, yoga can help alleviate chronic pain and improve joint mobility in psoriatic arthritis patients.

Individuals with toe problems or inflammation in the lower extremities may want to avoid weight-bearing exercises, though. Ogdie-Beatty suggests swimming as an exercise option.

Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, and remember to go slow.

Connecting With Others

Building strong social connections and engaging in regular social interactions can help you deal with stress. Research published in a January 2016 article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that cultivating strong social bonds with family and friends increases physical well-being and reduces stressful health conditions such as high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, and inflammation.

“Social interaction is important,” Dr. Mease says. “You can find this through your friends, family members, fellow church members, and work colleagues.” And that's just to name a few of the many ways to engage and interact with others.

Psoriatic arthritis patients can also find support groups through the Psoriasis Foundation website.

Spending Time Outdoors

Research shows that spending time outdoors can improve your health. For example, a study published in May 2016 in the journal Environment & Behavior suggests that even a walk down a tree-lined street can reduce stress levels.

Regular walks in a nearby park are a great way to help manage stress. And don't worry if you don't live near any trees: Looking at photos of nature can be just as effective. According to a study published in December 2015 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, participants who viewed images of nature had lower levels of stress because seeing pictures of nature activated a part of the nervous system that slows the heart rate and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.

Seeking Outside Help

Consider talking to a mental health care professional for tips on managing stress. A therapist or licensed social worker can talk to you about situations that cause you stress, including relationship issues, financial problems, or career trouble. A trained medical professional can also help you with adjusting to life with psoriatic arthritis.

“When a therapist diagnoses someone with a chronic illness, [the person goes] through all of the stages of grief,” Mease says. “Talking to a therapist would help a person adapt and cope.”