I wanted to share a little bit of a follow-up to my post sharing my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis. I’ve now been living with PsA for about 6 months, 4 of which have been with a diagnosis and 2 of them with treatment. I’m about halfway through my treatment cycle to when most patients feel the full results of the treatment, so I’m looking forward to what the next 2 months will bring with that! I definitely feel better on the treatment than I did prior to it, but I still don’t feel good or normal (or whatever normal will be for me!). While medical treatment is one part of my journey to get towards feeling more normal, I’ve also made some lifestyle changes over the last several months. It’s hard to put a weight on each individual thing and how it has helped, but I do know that the changes I’ve made as a whole have contributed to how I feel today.
Moving My Body
I started walking regularly, typically 4-5 days a week. Prior to my diagnosis, I was very inconsistent with exercise. I’d go through phases where I was moving my body regularly, and phases where I wouldn’t do any intentional movement for weeks at a time. Once my treatment got me to a place where I could comfortably walk longer distances again, I set a 2-mile walk goal for myself. I have a path throughout our neighborhood that is exactly 2 miles, so I walk that weekly. After doing it a few times, it became something I looked forward to doing! I love getting some fresh air, listening to a podcast, and zoning out for the 35-40 minutes that it takes me. While it’s been beneficial for me physically, the mental payoff is significant! I notice a change in my mood (even if I’m having a good day prior to my walk – endorphins really do work!) and just feel better all around in my body.
Decreasing Alcohol Intake
I cut way back on alcohol, specifically wine. Wine makes me swell, which is something I don’t need any more of right now! I stopped drinking altogether when my symptoms first started (since I didn’t know what was going on) and was surprised by how quickly I got out of the habit of pouring myself a glass of wine at night. I used to look so forward to it, but now I rarely think about it! I will still drink here and there, but it’s almost exclusively in a social setting. I don’t just open a bottle of wine to sip on throughout the week anymore. I feel like I’m sleeping better and just overall feeling more clear-headed with less alcohol intake. Whether you’re looking to cut back on alcohol for personal or medical reasons, I recommend replacing it with something else you can look forward to. Since I was used to having something different to drink at night than the water I drink all day, I opted for a Topo Chico (sparkling mineral water) instead. Yes, it’s still water, but it’s different than flat water. I now look forward to my sparkling water at night instead!
I made conscious efforts to reduce my stress. This one was the hardest for me because I tend to operate pretty well under stress. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do things well, which can cause a lot of stress. I’ve implemented a healthier schedule for myself, along with learning the power of saying no to things. I’m still working on this one (and probably always will be), but am proud of the changes that I’ve made to create a more balanced work-life schedule. I’ve alleviated some of the pressure from myself and learned to let some things go (even if until tomorrow or next week). It’s been helpful for me to have a clearer mind and to allow my body the rest it needs!
I prioritized good sleep. I’ve always been the type of person that needs sleep. I don’t do well on 5-6 hours a night – I’m more of a 7.5-8 hours kind of girl. It’s not always possible, but I try my best to get quality sleep at night. I try to get in bed early (by 9:30p) to have a little time to read and wind down. Even if I don’t feel particularly tired, reading in the dark while laying in bed will put me to sleep every time!
Again, I can’t pinpoint one change and say that it has made a significant difference on its own, but I think they have all contributed to how I’m feeling better overall.