Stress can be a trigger for ankylosing spondylitis (AS) flares. Plus, the condition itself can lead to stress. To manage your AS and reduce symptoms, it’s worth trying some stress-management techniques.

There are many ways to de-stress, including properly treating your AS, practicing relaxation techniques, talking to someone, and finding joy in your favorite hobbies.

You may experience stress for multiple reasons if you have AS. It’s important to know how to manage it to reduce flares and symptoms.

Stress can lead to AS flares by creating tension in your body and triggering a response from your immune system. In one older study from 2002, people with AS said that stress and “overdoing it” were the most common triggers for symptoms.

Additionally, AS itself can make you feel stressed, creating a vicious cycle. Symptoms like pain and fatigue can cause stressful situations, which can worsen your symptoms.

Proactively reducing stress may help calm your mind and reduce or prevent AS symptoms. Try some of these methods to de-stress with AS.

One critical factor to managing your AS is to stick to your doctor’s treatment recommendations. This can help reduce flares and alleviate stress caused by your symptoms.

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
  • avoiding smoking

Living with AS can cause emotional ups and downs. Consider seeing a therapist or other mental health professional to manage your stress, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may be useful to manage the emotions that arise with AS symptoms that come and go.

It’s important to keep up your strength when you have AS. Engaging in low-impact exercises like swimming, walking, or biking may help you stay strong.

Exercise can also reduce your stress levels and help you sleep more soundly. This may contribute to a calmer outlook.

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 for several minutes.

You may also practice breathing exercises more intentionally in a quiet space. Sit on the floor in a comfortable position and align your shoulders with your hips.

While you elongate your spine, you may slacken other parts of your body like your face. Close your eyes, place a hand on your stomach, and breathe in and out slowly, feeling your body rise and fall with each breath.

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on concentrating on the present and letting your worries slide away. Research studies have 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 seek training from a professional.

You may find that practicing either tai chi or yoga relaxes you and builds strength and flexibility. Both can help your concentration through movements that align with your breathing. Talk to your doctor before starting tai chi or yoga to ensure that the practices are healthy for you.

Move slowly as you begin these practices to avoid triggering AS symptoms or causing injury. Over time, your body will build more stamina so you can add more movements to your routine.

Both yoga and tai chi can be done in a group class or at home. Consider beginning these practices with a professional instructor to teach you proper technique. You may want to let them know you have AS so that they can advise you to try alternative poses to avoid injury.

Getting a massage may help reduce your stress and provide other health benefits if you have AS. One study found that massage has other clinical benefits for those with AS beyond stress reduction, such as pain relief in the lower back.

Discuss this stress management technique with your doctor prior to getting a massage to ensure that you’re a good candidate for this type of therapy. Communicate with your massage therapist about having AS to make sure the massage targets the appropriate areas of your body and is done with a safe level of pressure. Avoid getting a massage if they cause pain or discomfort.

Try to take your mind off of the cause of your stress by participating in your favorite hobbies. Reading a good book, watching a movie or television show, trying a handicraft, or participating in a low-impact sport can help ease your mind.

Calling or meeting a friend or loved one to talk about your day-to-day life and your current stresses may help calm you. Getting out your feelings will help you feel less bottled up.

Your friend may also be able to offer some helpful advice for managing a stressful situation or coping with stress caused by AS symptoms. If you don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to, consider joining a support group to chat with others living with AS.

Writing down your triggers and the ways you were able to reduce your stress in the past may help you manage it in the future. Keep a journal that notes your past emotions and AS symptoms and how you managed them. Doing so may help you focus your energy when you encounter another stressful time or flare.

There are many ways to keep your stress levels down if you have AS. Try a combination of these techniques to relax and manage your symptoms. If you’re unable to manage your stress levels, talk to your doctor so you can devise a plan that works for you.