A couple weeks ago I asked the Kickin’As community to list the things that caused their flares. Overwhelmingly the most common response was stress. It has long been documented that stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and on our health. According to Web MD stress can cause “headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, depression, and anxiety.” In fact, I fully believe that the fact that I was living life in a state of high stress for an extended period of time is what triggered my Ankylosing Spondylitis Gene (HLA-B27) to become active when no other family members in living memory have been affected by the disease.
So obviously stress is bad for our health and the Kickin’ AS community is in agreement that it is a huge issue and trigger for our illness and sending us into flares. So, what can we do to prevent stress and limit the number of flares that we experience?
Stress Prevention Ideas:
Mediation is a simple, fast way to reduce stress, and it can be done wherever you are. Meditation is a practice that has been around for thousands of years. Meditation can provide you with a tranquil mind and deep state of relaxation. There are many different types of mediation. Three that I practice and recommend for stress reduction and fpr meditation beginners are: Guided Meditation, Mantra Meditation, and Mindfulness Meditation. You can read more about the benefits of meditation and the different varieties here. If you are interested in guided meditation you can find audio meditation recordings on Spotify and Youtube.
Yoga helps to reduce stress by:
- Relaxing the body
- Relaxing the mind
- Helping you to breathe more effectively
- Developing a connection between your mind and body
- Helping you to understand how your mind works
- Releasing emotional energy
Certain positions in yoga are more effective for releasing stress and tension. Find those poses here.
In the words of the famous Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.”
The endorphins created by exercise and physical activity are chemicals produced within the brain that act as natural painkillers. They also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Even just five minutes of aerobic activity can begin to exhibit anti-anxiety effects within the body.
So, as we say on Mondays, Move It or Lose It! Perform some activity every day to help prevent and reduce stress.
Being unorganized is a huge stressor. Running late, never knowing where you are
supposed to be at what time, unable to find what you are looking for in your house – it all contributes to stress.
Some tips to get organized:
- Get a planner or use your phone calendar to track all of your appointments
- Plan your day the night before. Review all of your appointments, meetings, etc so you know what you need to do and where you need to be.
- Deal with paperwork and mail right away. Don’t let it pile up.
- Clear out clutter in your house, at your office, in your car, and in your desk. Throw away or donate what you no longer need or use.
- Prioritize your tasks and in which they need to be done.
Read your Holy Book of Choice
For me personally, this has become an every day activity. If you are religious spend a few minutes every day reading your Holy Book of choice, or in prayer, or practicing your religion in some way. You will achieve a sense of peace while spending time with your god(s).
Take Time for Self-Care
Take time at least once every month to practice self-care, whatever this may mean to you.
Self-Care Activity Suggestions:
You can find more suggestions for self-care activities here.
Start journaling to purge whatever stress you may be carrying with you. Journaling is a great creative outlet that allows you to focus on yourself and your inner-most thoughts. Use your journal in whatever way works best for you. Write about your day, write poems, write song lyrics, collect motivational quotes or Bible verses. Draw and doodle. Write diagonal across the page instead of following the lines. A journal is meant for you. Use it how you want.
Learn to Say No
Stop overextending yourself. You do not have to commit to every activity or RSVP to every event. You do not have to agree to help your coworker with every project or volunteer to take on every activity that no one else wanted to be in charge of. Learn to say no. Only say yes when you know you can handle something and you WANT to attend or take part in the activity.
See a professional therapist or counselor
Sometimes stress gets to the point that we are no longer able to handle it on our own. Seek help from a professional therapist or counselor. Having an unbiased professional to talk to and help you sort through your life is invaluable when stress has begun to run your life. Ask for help if you need it.
Perform Positive Affirmations
Retrain your brain to see the world in a more positive light with positive affirmations. Using positive affirmations will create a more positive outlook on life and provide you with a more positive image of yourself. Positive people live longer and happier lives than people who have a negative view of the world.
Check out this list of positive affirmations.
Listen to relaxing sounds and music
If you’re feeling stressed put on some music! But not just any music. Have you ever had a massage and listened to the soothing music that is playing in the background? Listen to those soothing sounds anytime, anywhere when you feel stress start to take over. Nature sounds, meditation music, spa music, relaxing piano music are all great options. You can find playlists and stations for relaxation on just about any listening app. Spotify, Pandora, Youtube, Apple Music, or Amazon Music.
Pet your animal companion
Author and AS Warrior Michelle with her dog Cooper
Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Check out these 8 ways that your pet can help reduce stress.
Do you have more suggestions for preventing, relieving, or reducing stress? Tell us in the comments!
Keep Kickin’ AS, Warriors!
Extra Spoons to You All!
This website is not run by medical professionals and is solely the experiences of one Ankylosing Spondylitis Warrior who wishes to help and inspire others who suffer with the complications of autoimmune diseases.
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