Flares Still Happen, and I Accept Them as Messengers
I have now been living with AS for the past 11 years. At the beginning, flares came very frequently, and in an intense way. It felt like anything could trigger them. I even wondered, will I ever get out of this flare?
Fast forward to a few years later, around 2019, I had slowly learned to manage my symptoms. Following a functional approach, I worked with various practitioners to heal my gut and address my lifestyle and environment (as these play a big role in autoimmune conditions). This was very helpful and drastically lowered my back pain level.
Today, I am lucky that I am still living mostly pain free. That’s my new normal.
However, I do still get mild flares from time to time.
Listening to the message
What I have learned over the years is that the flares show up for a reason. They are like messengers. A messenger for change, which I need to accept. My body is trying to tell me something. I just have to listen.
This is of course easier said than done. This process of listening and understanding what the body is trying to communicate takes time, patience, and comes with trial and error. Building a mind-body connection practice and cultivating these moments of presence while tuning into the body is key for me.
Usually, flares appear because something is out of balance within me, physically, emotionally or mentally. Examples of recent flares and their messages have been too much stress and not enough time relaxing, overtraining and not giving my body enough time to recover. Another example is eating inflammatory foods too frequently, which then impairs my digestion, starting the cascade of inflammatory processes.
Time for a reset
Once I understand where the flare is coming from, I can do the right things for me to get the body back in balance. If my gut is flared (which has a big influence on my back pain), I will do a couple days of fast. If I’m feeling very stressed, I will prioritize activities to calm my nervous system down (taking a bath, going for a walk, reading a book). If I feel more tired than usual, I will focus on my morning and evening routines to optimize my sleep. There is always an opportunity to focus on the things that really matter and which the body needs more of.
This approach allows me to get out of flares much faster than in the past. I feel more resilient and aligned with my needs.
Consistent lifestyle habits
While flares can’t always be avoided (life happens, stressors happen!), I try to focus on consistency with my lifestyle.
Small, daily and healthy habits allow me to remain where I am with my disease activity.
It’s not only about being reactive when flares come, but it's about living in a proactive and preventive manner, to reduce the occurrences and intensity of those.
The journey of learning and acceptance continues!
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