A woman sits hunched over and crying as flames erupt behind her back

Don't Stress Your Next Flare

You know what it is like. You’ve had a really good day, or perhaps week. Everything is going your direction and you feel you finally have a handle on your spondylitis.

And then, it hits! The flare from outta nowhere! Pain, stiffness, irritability, sleepless nights, and depressed moods.

Maybe you did something to spark it, maybe it's the weather, or maybe your spondylitis just didn't want you forgetting about it. (I vote for the latter). But, no matter the reason, a flare is here and who knows how long it will be visiting.

Here are some ways I combat a flare by not stressing.

Don’t fight it!

But, Jed, you just said “combat” and now you’re saying to not fight it? Yes, you read this right. While we are always at odds with our illness, I choose to take a more pacifist approach to fighting.

Going in guns blazing causes the body stress and spondylitis loves stress!

I don’t know about you, after all, we are all different but when I’m stressed at work because kids are screaming, or stressed at home because my dogs are barking my pain goes up and it affects everything I do. The last thing I want to do is add more stress by trying to fight it head-on.

So, I don’t.

Instead, I do my best to push it out of existence and make it leave my mind. Easier said than done, I know. But, don’t underestimate the power of a good book and a cup of coffee. Or whatever you like to do to just escape.

Pain is neurological. Your brain telling you that something is wrong. If you fill up a few synapses with positive thoughts, the pain won't have the ability to use them.

Go to your cave

While caves are wet and full of bats, they are also dark and quiet.

Find a place in your house where you can be alone. Like, totally alone.

For me, light and sound are huge triggers for both my spondylitis and autism. When I am feeling my worst, I need to escape to somewhere I can be alone with my thoughts, and preferably without sound and light.

This of course doesn’t have to be in your house. If you are lucky enough to be able to find a log in the forest, that was always good for me. In high school, it was the art room when school was closed. My in-laws used to have an indoor pool and that was a fabulous location when family events became too much.

Wherever you find comfort, claim it. If you can make it your own without things that cause you to stress, even better. While the storage room in the basement might be quiet and dark, at least for me, all the clutter does not allow for relaxation.

The purpose is to remove all outside stimulation so that it's only your spondylitis that is adding to your pain. You will have more success taking one thing on than several.

What does your doctor say?

Have you ever talked to your rheumatologist or any other doctor about stress and how it affects your pain?

There are a lot of doctors that will go with the antidepressant route. Depending on how you feel about that, you might want to ask about other routes you could go. There are supplements and amino acids that do amazing things for stress.

A doctor once told me that the spondylitis body is always in “Fight for Flight.” Our immune system and other systems are always aware of our “foreign invader” and feels the need to do something about it. Add to that actual worldly stress and your body will never ever get rest. Pain, exhaustion and brain fog are connected to your nervous system and outside stimulus.

Your doctor might be doing a bang-up job treating your inflammation, but what are they doing for your well being?

Too blessed to be stressed

Your body is the only one you’ve got. You need to take care of it. I once took a specialized stress test that measures blood pressure, oxygen flow, body heat, and several other things. The doctor looked at me and told me I was going to have a stroke. Not maybe, for certain. If I didn’t make a change in my life and how I do things, my body would literally shut down.

If stress is causing your body to go into never-ending panic mode, you might need to make a change.

This article was originally written by Jed Finley and published on our sister rheumatic community, AxialSpondyloarthritis.net.

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