Mindfulness and AS
Last updated: September 2023
We all know that stress is the worst thing for an individual with AS. I know this, and for me having AS causes me stress! How do I control this? Well, keep reading.
Over the past nearly two years of having AS, I’ve found great help in practicing mindfulness. Being totally honest, I always thought mindfulness was a load of nonsense.
But oh, how I was wrong!
Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as "deliberately paying attention to your experience as it unfolds, without judging it." Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction. This type of mindfulness is used in many pain management clinics around the world.
I have never practiced mindfulness before this year. I have now bought a book called "Mindfulness on the Go," and downloaded the "Calm" app, which is a mindfulness app. I practice mindfulness every day.
During the first few weeks I found that it was very important to establish a real sense of mindfulness in the body. At the beginning, I found this very difficult as my mind was wandering, and I found I couldn’t focus on my body. After some research, I realized that this was normal. So, if this is you, then do not worry!
I started with short two-minute sessions, and I have worked my way up to 15-minute sessions, which only feels like I am practicing mindfulness for a couple of minutes. Now, when my mind wanders to thoughts about the past and present, I can bring my mind back to the present.
I think to myself: What’s happening now? How does my body feel? What is my pain like? How does my mind feel? What is my breath like?
Mindfulness is used as pain-management
I have learned from practicing that following the breath is the key to mindfulness. As our breath changes, for example from fast to slow or deep to shallow, depending on how we are feeling. So, I have found it helpful knowing that if I am practicing mindfulness and my breathing is fast and shallow, I realise that I am not fully relaxed. I can bring my attention to this and use mindfulness to become more relaxed.
From practicing mindfulness, I have changed my perspective on it. Before I began practicing mindfulness, I didn’t think much about it. I thought; this can't be helpful. I was wrong. I now perceive mindfulness as something helpful. I think that when we practice mindfulness, we use attention our like a flashlight, shining it onto our feelings.
In my opinion
a lot of stress and anxious thoughts come from our reaction to a situation or an experience. Therefore, practicing formal mindfulness is helpful. Practicing formal mindfulness allows us to pay attention and accept things as they are and helps us to stop resisting our experience. Which I find very helpful in regards to accepting my lifelong illness.
As mentioned above, mindfulness is used as a type of pain management. Since practicing mindfulness, I have noticed that I am able to control my stressful and anxious feelings, which in results helps me to be less tense and in less pain. I suffer from chronic muscle spasms in my neck. Now, when this occurs, I practice mindfulness. I will begin by practicing the body scan and using the "Calm" app for deep breathing exercising.
Another type of mindfulness that I have been practicing is mindful movement. Tai Chi is a form of mindful movement. I have been practicing Tai Chi for about 6 months and along with physical benefits I have noticed that I feel more in control with my body and its emotions, and more relaxed.
Mindfulness allows me to understand what I am really feeling and allows me to control these feelings. Which in turn, allows me to be less stressed and tense. Mindfulness has helped me control my pain, to an extent. Sometimes there's no controlling it but I am delighted to have found something that helps a little!
Do you practice mindfulness?
Do you notice worsening flares in colder weather?