Saturday, 23 July 2016

Being Mindful

So who’d like to learn how to surf?!

Two years ago I took part in a study in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, which looked at the effects of mindfulness on people with psoriasis.  I’m not going to lie to you.  It was challenging!  I am not a person who responds well to being told what to do.  My mind is forever racing ahead of me.  I am that ‘Anxiety Girl’ with the ability to jump from zero to catastrophe in thirty seconds flat.  Finding myself in a room with twenty-four others and being ‘forced’ to stop, to be still, to breathe, to focus on the moment was completely alien to my usual everyday behaviour.

Did it work?  It depends on how you define ‘work’!  I certainly learned a lot.  I learned that thoughts are not facts.  A simple statement, but a powerful one.  A statement that I have found myself repeating on many occasions since.  When my mind jumps forward to imagine all sorts of potential disastrous scenarios (behaviour that I think many of us are guilty of) it is comforting to remember that this is just my imagination … this is not fact … these dreadful scenarios will probably never happen. When the study was over, I found myself downloading the Headspace app onto my phone.  If nothing else, it helps me to sleep!  Those nights when sleep eludes you?  The Headspace app is better than any sleeping pill (but don’t tell any mindfulness practitioner that I told you that.  I’m not sure that this is meant to be its primary function)

The good news is … the hospital has decided to run a very similar study and it is open to any and all psoriasis patients in Ireland who are able to attend St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin every week over an eight week period, for two hours each week.  There is definitely a time commitment involved – but c’mon!  Who amongst us would begrudge committing time in the pursuit of helping our skin?

So would I recommend it?  Hell yes!  Psoriasis is a complicated disease.  We all know that.  I also know that there are many of you who are still reluctant to go down the medication route.  There are those of you who would like to fully explore a more holistic approach to healing and for you guys, this study would be an amazing opportunity.  If, like me, you are taking medication but are still susceptible to stress, then this study offers a set of coping mechanisms that can only help in your daily lives. How to slow down, how to pull your mind back from the craziness and into the present. All invaluable learnings.  The feedback from the study two years ago was extraordinary, with some crazily high statistic of over 85% of participants reporting favourably on its effect on their lives. 

So the details!
Mindfulness & Psoriasis Research Study
The Department of Dermatology in St. Vincent’s University Hospital is conducting new research with people who have psoriasis using a technique called Mindfulness. If you choose to take part in this research you will be randomly assigned to one of two possible treatment groups:
1.  Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy or
2. Treatment as Usual
What is involved in the Mindfulness Group (MBCT)?
8 weekly classes
Each class lasts 2 hours
We ask for your commitment to attend all classes and complete home exercises
The mindfulness interventions are due to take place in October 2016 and January 2017.
What is involved in the Treatment as Usual Group?
You will continue your medical treatment as usual
You will not participate in the psychological intervention on this occasion (you will be given the opportunity to partake in the Mindfulness intervention in 2017).
All groups will be asked to complete psychological questionnaires and give blood samples on three occasions – at the start of the research, after 8 weeks, and after 4 months. We will attempt to schedule these visits around your routine attendance at your dermatology clinic.
If you would like to participate in this research or discuss it in more detail please contact Alan Maddock, PhD Scholar with the School of Psychology, Trinity College, Dublin via phone on (087) 973-9568 or via email on: by 10 August 2016
Please note: this research is open to patients of hospitals other than St. Vincent’s Hospital.

If you are unsure if this is for you, then I would urge you to pick up the phone anyway and make an enquiry.  It can't harm you, it will probably help you and you certainly won't regret it!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Wednesday Wish

It has been a while since I’ve done a Wednesday Wish, so I think I’ll ease us back in gently.  This week I’ve chosen something that I’ve actually seen up close, live and personal!  Every blogger and fashionista in the land seems to be obsessed with espadrilles this season, and luckily for us, they are the perfect shoe for anyone with psoriasis on their feet.  

Soft, buttery leather which conceals most of the foot; flat soles for comfort and who doesn’t love a bit of metallic during the summer months?  These KG by Kurt Geiger Mellow Leather Espadrilles (Chanel-esque I think you’ll agree) are a positive bargain (relative to most Wednesday Wish choices) at only €125.00.  Comfort, style and trend in one shoe - not bad for the price!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Lovin' Summer

Hello!  I thought it was time to pop my head up and remind you that I still exist!  This is possibly the longest time I’ve spent away from the blog and my excuse is illness.  Nothing too serious … but an ear infection followed closely by a throat infection that involved multiple visits to my GP along with a lot of antibiotics and a heavy dose of self pity.

But hey!  Have you looked outside?  Summer has officially arrived people, so it’s time for my annual post where I tell you all to ignore everything I’ve told you over the past few months, throw away all the rules and in the words of the psoriasis Instagrammer, Holly, ‘get your skin out’.  As always with psoriasis, there is a caveat.  If you are someone for whom sun is an irritant, then clearly these words do not apply to you.  Today I am talking to the majority of psoriasis sufferers, for whom the sun is a wonderful healer. 

This is the one time of year that I don’t care about showing off my skin – within reason!  When on holidays I work on the premise that a) I’m never going to see these people again and b) healing my skin is more important than the stares of others, and so it’s bikini ahoy and away I go.  (OK … I’ll admit that I did get much braver as I got older.  One of the few advantages of advancing years is an accompanying lack of self-consciousness – much to the Teen’s horror!)

So if you are heading off on holidays this year, do your skin a favour and expose it to the healing rays of the sun.  If you look around the beach or pool, you’ll see every shape and size in all their swimsuit-clad glory and honestly, nobody is paying you any attention.  If you really think they’re looking, then stick on your sunglasses, sip your Prosecco and ignore them – but trust me, they aren’t looking at all!   And if you’re in the UK or Ireland this week and are enjoying this sudden bout of tropical weather, then I’d entreat you to do likewise.  Hit the back garden, go to your local beach or park, because c’mon, lets call a spade a spade here.  We Irish and Brits do not look our best when the sun comes out to play.  Red and white striped skin, crimson noses, handkerchief sunhats, white backs of legs … honestly, who on earth is going to take a second glance at your skin in the midst of such frightful sights?!

However, when the sun goes down, then all bets are off and it is time to restore your usual elegance!  I have recently returned from a very laid back week in Majorca, so although I wouldn’t say the evenings were high glamour (flip flops to dinner anyone?!), I did make a slight effort (translates to ‘applied mascara but didn’t bother straightening or drying hair’).   If any doubt were needed as to where my interests lie, I managed (in carry-on luggage only) to pack just one lipstick … but three clutch bags!! 

This shirt was a purchase from the Warehouse sale last year and is quite simply the most perfect white top.  The back was chiffon also, but I took it to a tailor and had it lined.  Total cost of top and alterations was about €50.  It’s the ideal psoriasis top as it’s loose and airy and it covers well.  Sadly, it’s no longer available, but I did find two alternatives which would work equally well.

Clutch #1 - Primark - bought last March so possibly not in stock anymore

Drawstring Oversized Top €60  Loose and comfortable and I’d imagine so easy to wear

Off the Shoulder Cotton Top €40  The most popular trend of the summer

As I mentioned in my last post, I did a quick forage in & Other Stories whist in Manchester for the Psoriasis Shout Out.  As scalp psoriasis is no longer an issue for me, I can expand my wardrobe to include more colours and instantly fell in love with this cobalt blue Relaxed Blouse reduced to €38 (does exactly what it says on the tin).  Really comfy and looks equally well whether tucked in or left loose.  Still some available online.

Clutch #2 - Primark.  Recent purchase so still available in store

However, if scalp psoriasis means you need to stick to a paler palatte, this New Moon Print Silk Blouse is also on sale at just €38 and looks to be a very similar shape and style (and I didn’t see this in the store and am now very, very tempted to order it – drat, that wasn’t the plan!)

 Finally, look at me with my arms out, displaying my elbows for all to see!  Honesty, I don’t mean to sound smug (oh God, I’m sooooo smug!) but I wanted to post this here to remind you that it is possible … clear skin really is possible!  OK, my legs aren't fully clear yet, but I’m not sure I can reiterate enough the pure, unadulterated joy of clear hands, clear scalp, clear elbows.  As somebody who has battled with psoriasis for over twenty years, it is truly miraculous to now be at a stage where there are a range of treatments to choose from and so many options to be explored.  So if you’re reading this and you are suffering silently, I am entreating you to go see your GP.  Ask for a referral and go to a dermatologist.  You honestly, won’t regret it.

Clutch #3 - Topshop but bought last Christmas
Metallic Grey T-shirt current stock from & Other Stories 

And that’s my lot for today.  The sun is still shining, so I’m off to the garden to get those aforementioned pesky legs out again in the hopes of ridding myself of the last few plaques.  Finally, in the words of Baz Luhrmann, ‘wear sunscreen’.  Happy summer folks!