Balancing Mental Health With AxSpA
Living with the chronic pain of AxSpA can make you exhausted, sometimes to the point of depression. It can even make you anxious when you aren’t able to complete tasks or be active because of a flare. Chronic pain can take a serious toll on your mental health, which also impacts physical health. The stress hormone cortisol is linked to increased inflammation. Balancing your physical and mental wellbeing can help to decrease your AxSpA symptoms while increasing your quality of life. The question is how can you balance these two?
Both chronic physical illness and mental illness can be unpredictable
They’re both often lifelong journeys that require flexibility in treatment over time. Some treatments can help with both at the same time, while others are used in isolation. There are medicines that treat both, but also plenty of non-pharmacological options. No matter what you decide to use to help with your mental and physical health, it is important to have a support system you can trust.
Moving my body
One option that has helped my mental and physical illness is exercise. Moving my body helps to keep my joints from getting stiff and also produces endorphins. Even just a short walk outside can help a lot with my mental state and my AxSpA achiness. Exercises like yoga and pilates that incorporate mind-body awareness are even better. Getting outside with some sunshine and fresh air also helps a lot. I have found that listening to music while exercising can also help with my mental state and allows me to push through pain and stiffness at the beginning of my workout.
Talk therapy is a great option to help with mental illness but can be surprisingly effective with pain management too. Having a licensed professional to help you work through how you deal with pain and how it makes you feel can help with your frustration but also your pain itself. They can help you determine if medication will help ease your anxiety or depression, too. Therapists can also teach you skills like grounding and mindfulness that will prepare you to handle chronic pain.
Mental health and pain are linked
Effectively treating your AxSpA can also help with your mental health because as your pain decreases it is easier to function and do the things you enjoy in life. You can feel less weighed down when AxSpA pain isn't holding you back from what you want to do. Of course, sometimes your mental and physical illnesses are separate and not caused by each other. Even if that’s the case, reducing symptoms of each will help with the AxSpA and mental health.
I am by no means an expert and have struggled to deal with my mental health while living with AxSpA. I just want to share some of the things that have helped me and to remind you that you are not alone in this journey. Having a community of support has helped me more than any medicine or other treatment ever could. Find someone to reach out to if you are really struggling with your mental health and chronic pain. You never have to fight alone.
Can you tell when a flare is coming?