December 21, 2022
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Photography by Jimena Roquero/Stocksy United
When living with psoriasis, managing travel, meals, and social events during the holidays can lead to stress and anxiety. A bit of research and some small steps to prepare yourself can make a big difference.
Although known typically as a time of great joy, the holiday season doesn’t always feel that happy. Managing a chronic condition is a full-time job, one we don’t get a break from just because it’s a holiday.
As we head into the season, here are a few common concerns that psoriasis may factor into, as well as some tips on how to best navigate them to have a more enjoyable time over the holidays.
For a lot of us, the holidays can involve travel. This can be a stressful experience even when you don’t have a condition like psoriasis. When you do, it can feel daunting leaving your vast supply of lotions and potions behind and carefully choosing which ones get to make the journey with you.
If flights are part of your travel plans, depending on how long you’ll be away or what your airline carry-on liquid allowance is, checked bags could be the way to go (if you have the budget). You’re able to bring more (and larger) containers in a checked bag.
If all you can swing is carry-on luggage, I’d recommend picking up some mini versions of your skin care products or — even better — investing in reusable travel-size bottles and decanting how much you guesstimate you will need for the trip from the larger containers you already have. This is decidedly a more cost-effective and sustainable option.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires carry-on liquids to be in individual containers of 100 milliliters (ml) or less, presented in a plastic, resealable 1-quart bag. It truly can be like a game of Jenga trying to fit them all in. For anyone who applies emollients daily, this can be a challenge.
However, there are some exceptions to the liquid allowance rule that you might not be aware of that will make packing a lot less stressful. For flights within the U.S., passengers are allowed to bring prescribed liquids, gels, and aerosols of over 100 ml through security.
You should pack these items in the original container with the printed prescription attached. It’s also a good idea to have a letter from your doctor stating the items are essential. These items need to be declared separately from your other liquids at security and placed into their own tray, so you don’t have to try and fit them into the resealable bag.
Ahead of traveling, do your research and know what the protocol is for liquids or medications in the areas you will be traveling through to help reduce your stress and anxiety levels at security.
Another flight tip: Bring some anti-itch and hydration products with you for the flight, especially if it’s a long journey. The recycled air can often dry out and irritate your skin.
For me, gadgets to keep my hands occupied during flights are a must because when they are idle, that’s peak time for me to pick.
The recycled air on planes isn’t the only thing that can dry out your skin.
The change in temperatures, increased use of central heating, and wearing more and heavier clothing during the colder months can contribute to drying out your skin, naturally worsening the symptoms of people with chronically dry skin.
During the winter months, we need to be constantly hydrating inside and out. Drinking water alone isn’t enough. We need to apply products to the skin to help replenish and lock in the moisture. Products containing ingredients like urea and ceramides are recommended to do this.
You can also place small containers of water under radiators or in warm areas to stop the air in the room from drying out as much. Just make sure to clean the containers and add fresh water regularly.
The holidays are notoriously known as a time to indulge, and why should we miss out on that just because of our condition?
We all have our own triggers — things that will irritate and worsen our psoriasis — so it’s about knowing yours and what works best for you to counteract them. If you’re not sure yet, in the weeks leading up to the holiday period, keep a diary documenting factors that affect your psoriasis, like your diet. If there are certain foods or drinks, whether alcohol-based or otherwise, that you find aggravate your symptoms, you’ll want to avoid those.
If you’re attending an event, you can always speak with the host to plan ahead of time. If you don’t want something to be specially prepared, just inquire what they plan on serving to ensure there will be something that agrees with you.
Sometimes, it can be a case of compromise more so than avoiding completely. For instance, if you like certain foods or drinks but your psoriasis doesn’t, just don’t go overboard (and be prepared for a potential flare). Have the counteracting tools at hand to minimize the side effects of moments of indulgence.
Everyone will have different triggers, but in general, it’s recommended not to go wild on food or drinks that are high in sugar, as sugar can cause inflammation. People with an autoimmune inflammatory condition, like psoriasis, want to avoid additional inflammation in the body.
When it comes to alcohol, wines (red in particular) are considered to be one of the better options as they contain antioxidants that can lower inflammation when consumed in moderation. Avoid drinks that are high in sugars and artificial colors, like alcopops and cocktails. You may also want to limit gluten, which is found in most beers, if you have a sensitivity.
With spirits, go for high grade ones, preferably served neat or combined with mixers that are low in sugar, such as sparkling or soda waters. You can always throw in a bit of fruit to add flavor.
Be selective when it comes to your social calendar over the holiday period. I know we can want to do it all to please everyone, and maybe we don’t want to be seen as turning invites down because of our condition, but your mental health and well-being have to be a priority. If they aren’t, perhaps that’s a New Year’s resolution to consider.
Know your limits. Living with a chronic condition takes its toll physically, mentally, and emotionally, as do some of the treatments. Certain medications come with side effects we have to consider, such as fatigue. You don’t want to overexert yourself, and being self-aware and prepared is key.
Engage in mindfulness exercises, like yoga and meditation, to minimize your stress and anxiety levels. Social gatherings can be high pressure events and a source of great anxiety for anyone with a visible difference. With anything that affects our visual appearance comes a level of self-consciousness.
Show as much or as little of the visible signs of your condition as you want. Hairstyle, clothing, accessory, and makeup choices can help you with that. Wear clothing that you are going to feel comfortable and confident in, both physically (no scratchy sequins!) and mentally. Otherwise, you will be self-conscious all night and won’t be able to relax and fully enjoy yourself.
The holiday season can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Knowing your triggers and stressors and how to minimize their effect on you and your psoriasis are the keys to having better holidays with psoriasis.
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