Patient Blogs | Ankylosing Spondylitis
Managing Stress With Ankylosing Spondylitis
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When I was working in the corporate world, I was severely stressed out, constantly under pressure to perform at my best at all times.

One of the investment advisors I worked with had suggested I be like one of the people on our team (let’s call him John) as he was always on-the-go 24 hours (corporate culture LOVES these types of people).

John moved at the speed of lightning. Think “The Flash” (TV show). I had never met or worked with anyone with such tremendous energy. Ever. John got things DONE (an endearing term that the investment advisor John and I worked with would say on a regular basis). 

This post is bringing back so many crazy workplace memories about that word: DONE.

Anyway…

I admired John because he was the epitome of the combination of brains and ambition coming together in the workplace. He was one of the smartest people I ever met. John was excellent at what he did and I couldn’t believe how he could keep his work organized and co-run the office with the two investment advisors we supported. I’m telling you, it was very impressive.

One day, John and I were in his office going over some client paperwork. He glanced over at his computer and let out a large sigh. I looked up at him because I was wondering what he was looking at on his computer that generated his response.

He turned his computer to me and I looked at an email sent from the investment advisor that loved the word DONE. He had replied back to John with about 25 question marks in a row. That was it. No words. Just question marks.

John shook his head from side to side and said, “this is what I have to deal with.”

It was in that moment I realized even though John appeared to be made of steel on the outside, his kryptonite was our boss. And John was under tremendous pressure and stress. I also experienced a great deal of stress from my workload which made it challenging to manage ankylosing spondylitis.

Many, many hours were spent in the office trying to finish a pile of work that had no end. As a result, stress took a tremendous toll on my body. My knees were inflamed and ached which put my chronic pain into overdrive.

But I kept pushing through the pain because deadlines had to be met, paperwork needed to be completed for client meetings and the list went on and on. I was so busy with work that I joked with my co-workers that I needed a port a potty by my desk to cut time on restroom breaks! They thought it was funny but I wasn’t joking.

Looking back on those days, I wished I had done things differently. Instead of eating lunch at my desk over a 2 hour period because of work, I would have spent my lunch break outside, sitting under a tree with my eyes closed while enjoying the cool shade. I would have asked my colleagues if they had some extra time to spare to assist me instead of working myself to the bone.

Working hard, trying to get it all DONE so you can look like a hero and not a loser in the workplace isn’t in anyone’s best interests. I don’t know about you but for me, I didn’t want my chronic pain to be an issue at work so I didn’t let on too much about how my body truly felt. 

It’s crucial to manage stress when you have a chronic disease. Not just in the workplace but anywhere you are. Stress isn’t going anywhere anytime soon because it has been with us from day one, I’m talking from cave man times. Back then it was good stress: Lion chasing me. Me don’t want to be lion dinner. Me run. Me save life.

Today, it’s stress hormones flooding our bloodstream and staying elevated in our blood at dangerous levels instead of rebalancing when the threat is over.

Elevated stress can cause burnout and anxiety (even John had difficulty keeping up with the responsibility placed on his shoulders, and he didn’t have a chronic disease).

The key is to learn how to be aware of your stressful moments so you can manage stress and use it to your advantage.

Some of the things I do to balance my stress levels are:

  • Writing down 5 things I’m grateful for each day in my journal 
  • Meditating for an hour at night
  • Walking and connecting to nature

As you can see, I keep it really simple because it doesn’t need to be complicated or hard. Stress is wired into our DNA. It’s about learning to be aware of stressful moments so you can manage them effectively to control your pain levels.

If you’re feeling stressed out today, take a moment and pause. Breathe, close your eyes, meditate for a few minutes and think about one thing you are grateful for right now. Open your eyes. How do you feel?

It’s the little things in life that can get us through the big things.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: mapodile/E+ via Getty Images

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Lovaine Cohen

Lovaine Cohen

Diagnosed since 2001

Lovaine Cohen has lived with ankylosing spondylitis for over 20 years. A chronic pain coach, Lovaine helps women reduce pain with her Holistic Healing Method program and shares pain management and anxiety tips on her blog and on Instagram. Her loves include her two children in their early 20s, a rescue husky named Stella, and her husband of 28 years. Connect with Lovaine on Instagram.

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