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Stress management is a necessary life skill for everyone, but it is especially important if you are dealing with a chronic condition like Ankylosing Spondylitis.
The connection between stress and inflammation related to Ankylosing Spondylitis has been well established. Stress is directly known to increase inflammation, which in turn can lead to flares. On the other hand, studies have shown that stressful situations lead to reduced adherence to medication, which in turn can cause an increase in symptoms.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be particularly high on stress - with its disrupted daily activities and routine. Even as life inches back to normal, altered routines continue and so does stress.
For someone living with Ankylosing Spondylitis, creating and maintaining routines is crucial in these stressful times. Studies have shown that it gives a sense of control while improving productivity and focus. Besides lowering stress levels, it can help form healthy behaviors. The importance of routine cannot be stressed more.
Decide on the right approach
While developing a routine, ask yourself if a strict, time-based routine or a general to-do list works best for you. You can experiment with both approaches, before deciding the one that suits you best.
Find what works for you
Understanding your condition and your symptom trends will help you build up routines that you can stick to. For example; if you experience pain and stiffness in the morning, scheduling a strenuous task during the evening may help ensure that you can stick to it. Pay attention to your symptoms to help determine the times of the day when you are most productive. Make the most of the ebb and flow of your energy levels and symptom severity to build an effective routine.
Follow a routine that supports your health
The key to managing Ankylosing Spondylitis is to exercise regularly and manage posture, in addition to regular treatment. It is important that your routine includes all of these so that you are on track in your fight.
Consider your motivation
Ask yourself why you are motivated to bring structure into your daily life. Your motivation could be the ability to cope, to lower stress, to improve productivity or just to live well with Ankylosing Spondylitis.
The crux here is that a motivated person always follows through.
Remember, it takes time and practice
Although it is important to stick to routines, do not stress yourself in case you are not able to keep up. Productive habits can be instilled with time and patience, provided you have the motivation to keep up the routine.
Everyone copes with Ankylosing Spondylitis differently. Building routines can help you structure your day based on your priorities while keeping in mind your symptoms.
Bring back routines to your life and learn to live well with Ankylosing Spondylitis during COVID-19 times.
Upham B. Everyday health. How stress affects ankylosing spondylitis - and what you can do about it. Available [Online] at: https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/ankylosing-spondylitis/how-stress-affects-ankylosing-spondylitis/#:~:text=That's%20because%20stress%20can%20exacerbate,increased%20inflammation%20and%20worsening%20symptoms. Accessed on 17March 2021
Cherry K. Very well mind. The importance of maintaining structure and routine during stressful times. Available [Online] at: https://www.verywellmind.com/the-importance-of-keeping-a-routine-during-stressful-times-4802638?print Accessed on 2 March 2021