A stressed person exhaling while looking stressed. Inside the body of the figure is a herd of gazelles drinking and eating calmly.

How a Gazelle's Thought Process Can Help With Psoriasis Stress

Last updated: June 2020

I have been working on the impact my mental health has on my psoriasis since I recovered from depression late last year. As part of my recovery process, I came across a Ph.D. student who is researching self-compassion in people living with stigmatizing skin conditions.

Psoriasis and stress management

I had never come across the concept of self-compassion for stress management and to be honest, at the beginning was pretty dismissive. However, I followed her book recommendation and quickly realized that self-compassion should be a core element of healing with psoriasis.

The types of emotion systems

Reading her work has taken my understanding of how our thoughts impact our health to a whole new level. My biggest take-away? That we can change the patterns of our brain activity using our thoughts.

It turns out there are three types of emotion systems:

  1. The achieving brain: This motivates us, and we use this when we are excited.
  2. The soothing brain: When we feel safe and connected, a peaceful state.
  3. The threat brain: Evolved to protect us. Anxiety and fear created from our environment.

The goal is to keep the soothing brain and the threatening brain in balance. Unsurprisingly, worrying about what people think about us, what they will say in social situations, and how we feel about ourselves activates the threat systems in the brain.

The right kind of psoriasis trigger

Breathing exercises like those in yoga can switch on the soothing system, which can balance the threat system and make us feel better. Over time, just a few breaths can trigger the soothing system if we invest time in training our body to use the inspirations as a soothing trigger.

See if you can find a trigger to help you practice. For me, I am trying to do this when my kid's screech ‘Mummy!’ and when I put my face creams on in the morning.

How to send your threatened feelings through the roof

If you have ever watched wildlife documentaries you will have noticed that after near-death experiences, like being chased by a lion, the potential prey returns to everyday life almost immediately. The zebra and gazelles continue to happily munch away on the grass with their buddies.

If that had been me? I'd be sat shaking and rocking in a dark corner.

Changing our thoughts about psoriasis

It's because our brains are more complex. How much of our stress and anxiety comes from our what-if thoughts?

What if the lifeguard asks me to get out of the pool? What if he touches my psoriasis when were kissing and he is repulsed? What if I try to wear short sleeves today? What will I do if someone comments?

How life-changing would it be if we didn't have these thoughts? Imagine how different life could be if we retrained our brains to stop these spiraling thoughts with a few breaths. If we lived more like the zebra, in the moment, instead of obsessing over our what-if thoughts?

Find your own emotional system

I have started using breathing exercises daily and when I start thinking its all a bit too ‘out there’, I think about the zebras happily eating grass while lions are moments away. I think "Yes! I want that kind of inner calm!" and then I get back to it.

What do you think? Do you have one emotion system that dominates the rest?

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