Patient Blogs | Ankylosing Spondylitis
Survive and Thrive This Holiday Season
photo of woman's hands on christmas gifts

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year for several reasons. It’s a time when I can spend quality time with family and friends, celebrate my religious beliefs, and enjoy the traditional foods and festivities associated with those celebrations.

And it’s a time when I can reflect on all the good things that have happened in my life over the past year and set new goals for the year ahead.

For those of us living with ankylosing spondylitis, the holidays can also be a time of stress and anxiety. With so much going on and an already weakened immune system, it’s important to take care of ourselves.

Managing our condition during this time can be difficult, but with a little preparation, we can make the holidays a little easier on ourselves.

Here are some things I like to do during the holidays for managing AS:

Plan. For managing AS, I’ve found that the more prepared I am, the less stress I feel. I create a list of what needs to be done and delegate the tasks to other people. Doing this allows me to stay organized and prevents me from feeling stressed.

Eat healthier. The holidays are often associated with heavy, rich foods that can aggravate symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. I indulge but in moderation. I focus on incorporating healthier options into my meals and snacks, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Get plenty of rest. The holidays can be a busy time of year for everyone, but for me, it’s especially important to make sure I’m getting enough sleep.

When I don’t, I lose focus and my concentration becomes affected. I go to bed at a reasonable time, even if there are still things on my to-do list. I’ve also found that taking a hot bath before bed helps me to relax my muscles and ease tension.

Exercise regularly. Incorporating exercise into your holiday routines is an important aspect of managing the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. I take a walk around the block or do some gentle stretching. Pilates has become a recent addition to my exercise routine, which I do twice per week.

Stay positive and practice self-careIt can be difficult to stay positive during the holidays, especially if I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the things that need to get done. Whether it’s reading, listening to music, or meditating, I set aside time for myself every day. In addition, I work on being optimistic and continue to focus on the things that make me happy.

Stay organized. The holidays are a hectic time for everyone, but if you’re also managing a chronic illness, it can be even tougher. Organization and planning of time are key to keeping my stress levels down.

I set aside time for myself to relax and recharge, and I plan my holiday gatherings well in advance so I’m not scrambling at the last minute. I also try to stick to my usual routine as much as possible, even if that means saying no to some festive activities. By taking care of myself and staying organized, I’m able to enjoy the holidays while keeping AS under control.

Ask for help. The holiday season can be a stressful time of year, and living with ankylosing spondylitis can make it even more challenging. When I feel like I can’t handle everything by myself, I rely on my friends and family for help. They may not understand what I’m going through, but having someone who will lend a helping hand can make all the difference.

When cooking becomes too much, my son takes over.  He roasts the turkey and cooks all the sides for our holiday meals. I’m so grateful for his help and his delicious meals. He’s a lifesaver.

Enjoy the moment. The holidays are a time to be grateful and enjoy time with family and friends. I try to focus on making special memories, rather than worrying about what needs to get done or trying to manage my condition perfectly.

Even though ankylosing spondylitis can be stressful and painful, I have learned to appreciate the moments that I’m living.

The holidays don’t have to be a time of stress and anxiety for those of us living with ankylosing spondylitis.

With some simple preparation and self-care, we can manage our condition and still enjoy the festive season. Take it easy on yourself and remember to focus on the things that really matter. Happy holidays! 

Stay connected to others with ankylosing spondylitis. Join our Facebook Support Group now. 




Photo Credit: Maca and Naca / 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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