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De-Stress from AS - Try these 10 Tips
Episode 6316th August 2020 • The Axial Spondyloarthritis Podcast • Jayson Sacco
00:00:00 00:17:45

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Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of The Ankylosing Spondylitis Podcast. I hope everyone is doing fantastic. This week's message is all about ways to distress yourself and you know how, to hopefully put yourself in a better position with your Ankylosing Spondylitis and your mental state. 

This last week has been a bit of a challenge as my family moves through the one year anniversary of my father's passing. So you know, kind of some stressful items dealing with, thinking about, and I started looking and thinking what are ways that I can help myself to feel better, to move through this at an easier pace. I did turn to some meditation to help with the process just to really calm my mind and then look at some pictures and things like that. But how do I carry this forward for Ankylosing Spondylitis when it's not some kind of major anniversary but just in the day to day life, that we deal with having Ankylosing Spondylitis always present. 

So I came across this article that was titled De-Stress with AS: 10 Strategies to Ease Your Mind(link at end of show notes). And I thought, you know what I’ll read through them and there's a lot of really good information in it. As we all know, stress can trigger a lot of things. But for Ankylosing Spondylitis, the worst thing that we can get from stress is a flare, because we don't know how long that flare is going to last. And sometimes we can control it with medication and other times it runs amok and it's just over the top and we have no ability to rein it in until it decides it wants to stop. That alone is enough to try and keep stress at bay and it's really something we want to focus on as much as possible. There are many ways to de-stress you know, including properly treating your AS, practicing some relaxation techniques, talking to someone or just finding joy in a favorite hobby or extracurricular activity. So you may experience stress, you know, for multiple reasons, if you have Ankylosing Spondylitis with all the stuff going on right now with the COVID around the world, it could be financial health, all sorts of things are going on that can cause stress and lead to flares. Stress can lead to AS flares as I said, by creating tension in your body and triggering a response from your immune system. And once that happens, again, it's run amok and we don't have any easy way to control it. We can, again use medications to help to reel it in, but you know, that may or may not work. So what we want to do is proactively try to reduce stress, which may help to calm your mind and reduce or prevent additional ankylosing spondylitis symptoms. So, you know, try some of these methods. 

Number one, Stick to Your Treatment Plan. One critical factor for managing Ankylosing Spondylitis is to stick with what the doctor recommended to you. This generally can help to reduce flares, not all the time, but it can help to reduce flares. And maybe that can help to alleviate some stress. So they provided a checklist of things and your treatment plan may include checking in with your doctor regularly, seeing a physical therapist, or similar medical professional, staying active and eating a healthy diet, taking medications as directed, especially during flares, resting when needed, and avoiding smoking. Now, most of those I've done for pretty much my whole life. I never smoked, resting you know, when you're a young guy, you go, go, go, go and same with people that everybody else when you're young, you just go like crazy. So you get as much rest as you can and you just deal with it that way. Now, taking medications is, in my opinion, very important. When I was younger, there were no biologics and when I got to point where I could take them the type Humira and Enbrel didn't work long term for me. So that was something that it wasn't until about three years ago that I was prescribed a different medication, a biologic Cosentyx that worked great for me. What worked for everybody, I know some people try it and don't have any luck with it and get on the Humira or Enbrel and have great luck. Everybody's different, but work with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that works best for you. And then I had done some physical therapy recently for a hurt hip and back and that really helped out and gave me some ideas about further working on the hip to try and get some mobility back into it. See, as you are best able to see the different doctors and stay on any type of treatment plan. 

Number two, See a Mental Health Professional. We all know that living with AS can cause you know, emotions to be all over the place. Whether we're easy to live with, irritable, hard to live with, probably all the above. So consider seeing a therapist or other mental health professional to help you manage the stress. If you're married or in a relationship, maybe see a couples counselor to help with any issues that can come about because of the Ankylosing Spondylitis. Because I know from past relationships, there was time when my significant other she just didn't understand what I was going through. She thought she did, she tried to, but she didn't and it wasn't until we brought in a neutral third party that were able to overcome some of the issues. There are different techniques that they can help you out with. They can help you deal with anxiety and depression. So you know, whatever your symptoms are, don't be afraid to go talk to somebody that's a mental health professional and get the help that you need. 

Number three, Stay Active with Low Impact Exercise. We all know that it's important to exercise and it's important to do whatever exercise you can do. I've said this before, you may only be able to get up and walk safe from a living room, around, you know, out to a kitchen and back and forth four or five times before you're just physically unable to do anything else. If that's the case, 2,3,4 or five times doing that is better than nothing. And if you get that to a point where you're doing it 10 times, 12 times, next thing you know, you're going to be outside walking around the block and then a little bit further and a little bit further and every little bit helps. It's that baby steps to get started. So it might be swimming, walking, if you can bike, that's great. Not all of us, including me, I I can't bike, my hips are shot, so I can swim. I was swimming before the whole COVID shut down thing and hopefully when the gym start open back up, I'll be able to get back into use the pool. 

Number four, Try Breathing Exercises. Breathing exercises can be an effective way to manage stress no matter where you are. One simple way to practice breathing exercises is to take deep breaths very slowly. Focus on your breath and try to clear your mind of other thoughts as you inhale and exhale. You may also practice breathing exercises more intentionally in a quiet space. As you do that, you know, sit in a position that's comfortable, and try to align your shoulders with your hips. While you elongate your spine. You may slack in other parts of your body like your face, close your eyes, place a hand on your stomach and breathe in slowly feeling your body rise and fall with each breath. I have to honestly say I don't do very much with the breathing exercises. I do every morning when I get up by sit on the edge of my bed and do three to 10 deep breaths to try and exhale and inhale. Exhale and inhale to try and stretch out the lungs and get the rib cage moving and keep that flexibility in my my rib cage going but That's really pretty much the extent of the breathing exercises I do. Others may do more and there's a ton of videos on YouTube that can help you get started. I'll have a link in the show notes to a video on youtube I found on breathing exercises that may be helpful to you. 

Number five, Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on concentration on the present and letting your worries slide away. Research has found that this practice may help relieve stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness and other forms of meditation may take time to learn. So try not to get frustrated if you struggle to release your stress. When you first begin this practice, it'll get easier with time, you can begin to practice mindfulness by yourself at home or seeking training from oppression. This is one meditation I do twice; well I try to do twice a day. 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon. I took a class Oh geez, four years ago at the transcendental meditation Institute, or place in in San Antonio, Texas when I lived there. It was a four-day class on the basics of transcendental meditation. I enjoyed it. I never went back for any of the more special classes, specialized classes. I didn't want to do any of that. I just wanted the basics of doing the meditation. They did show me that. And it was a fantastic item for me. And I enjoyed doing it. It does. Calm you. Had you asked me before I took that class if I believed in it, I would have said no. I would have, you know, scoffed at you and said that it's nuts. But after I tried it, my outlook on it changed my view of it changed. And I completely I'm a huge believer in practicing meditation now. Whatever way works best for you. There are lots of videos online, on YouTube again that you can access to start meditation if you want. You don't have to go take a formalized class if you don't want to. And again, in the show notes, I'll have a link to a basic meditation video that I found on YouTube that I'll provide for you. 

Number six, Practice Tai Chi and Yoga. Well, here's the thing again, everybody tells you do yoga, do yoga, do yoga, and what am I telling you do yoga. I recently had on two guests that talked about their practice; they do Yoga for AS, which is their Facebook page. I'm going to have a link to Jamie and Geoff's episode in the show notes (below). And I would encourage you to listen to it. Both of them have Ankylosing Spondylitis. So this isn't some type of deal where we're going to stretch into pretzel positions and go crazy and you're going to be in so much pain. You can't stand it now Both of these gentlemen are great at yoga and can really do some advanced positions. But they're doing videos for people like you and me that are just starting off. I can't sit on the floor; I can't get into a cross-legged position. There's no way that can happen. So they designed videos for people like me, that can't do that you start off sitting on the couch, some basic stretching. I've been slowly incorporating the yoga for AS. And I'm very happy with both what Jamie and Geoff do. So I can't recommend that enough to you to go and check out that video series. Check out yoga for as on Facebook, and incorporate it in I think you'll really benefit from it. 

Number seven, Get a Massage. Normally, when you can and everything's open, I love to get massages. Even though my bed is fused, I love it when the mazuz really really works on that lower spine of mine pushes prods usually, you know, manipulated a little bit and I had a matuson San Antonio that that knew and was familiar with as and was very good about how she worked on my lower back. I don't have them appear now and I haven't been able to find them as soon as with everything being closed for the last three, four months, but once that opens back up again, I'm going to be looking for that you know, getting a massage, it can help reduce your stress and provide other health benefits if you have as there was a study done that found that massage has other clinical benefits for those with as beyond stress reduction, such as pain relief in the lower back. So discuss this type of treatment with your rheumatologist or your general practitioner or both. They may have some good referrals for us to a mazuz to see and then go in and out. Check it out, see if it helped is helpful to you. 

Number eight, Engage in a Hobby. Find something you like to do. For me, my main hobby is this podcast. I love doing it. I love interacting with the people that contact me. I'm also starting a second podcast on the history and traveling and recreation opportunities in the local area where I live. So those are two simple things for me to help relieve stress. What do you like to do because a garden? Is it fishing? Is it just going out for a hike? Is it photography? What is it, there are so many things you can do? Do a hobby that you like. And again, even if it's something as simple as walking and whatever, you know, just around a park, go for it. Get the exercise, see if you can walk a neighbor's dog for them, whatever helps you to relax and enjoy some some time out of the house. Go for it. 

Number nine, Talk to Friends or Family. Well, this is kind of another unique one in that so many people are now sequestered or staying, social distancing, and not as many people getting together, that can be a little more challenging. It's been very challenging for me. While I've gotten together with lots of family and really not changed around that too much. There's been literally no going out with friends, no going to any public places. So that's been really a challenge to me, and I'm really looking forward to the day one, go back and just stop at the local tavern to mix it up with some friends and shoot the breeze and have a good time and talk with folks. So that's really, it's really made this summer. The weirdest one I've ever experienced. 

Number 10, Keep a Journal. Well, this is a really good thing to do. And you can journal your thoughts, your feelings. Maybe you want to start a journal on just your pain in any given day and writing about it might help to get you to better diagnosis. Who knows if there are all sorts of things that can come from journaling? And well, it won't necessarily reduce your pain. You can share that journal, if it's medically based with your doctor so that they can see how you're doing. I had a gentleman on here not too long ago, James Allen, and James developed an app to put on your phone called Chronic Insights. James has ankylosing spondylitis. And this app is a way to track your pain in any given spot, and then use that to create exportable files to provide to your doctor so that they can see what you're dealing with. So I'll have a link to that show in the show notes and then you can go out whether it be a iPhone or an Android phone to look for the Chronic Insights app to document the pain that You're having associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis.

 So those are basically 10 items that you can incorporate one or more of to try and help with distressing your life might be a hobby or journal or you know, whatever we just discussed, that is very beneficial for you. And that's what's really key is doing something that you like doing something that you'll stick with and incorporating that so that you are getting some type of benefit some type of joy some type of calm for it. So again, thank you for listening. I really appreciate it. Please go out to and sign up for the Whenever I Feel Like Sending It Out Newsletter. You can also look and access Ankylosing Spondylitis podcast t-shirts there and a number of other things. And if you like the show and find value in it, please don't hesitate to stop at the link and make a donation to help keep the show growing. Again. I really appreciate all you listeners. It's fantastic connecting with you. Feel free to send me an email at and that's Jayson with a Y, Jayson at Love to hear from you, so take care and have a wonderful week. Article – De-Stress with AS: 10 Strategies to Ease Your Mind -

Relieve Stress & Anxiety with Simple Breathing Techniques:

Beginner Meditation -

Yoga for AS Facebook –

Yoga for AS Youtube -

Episode 060: Yoga for AS - Interview with Jamie and Geoff -

Episode 043: Interview with James Allen – Developer of Chronic Insights -