How We've Created At-Home Relaxation

Who doesn't love an evening of relaxation with candles, massage, and total relaxation? Creating an at-home spa experience is a key part of my husband, Keegan's, pain management, and stress management. Because his flare-ups are often caused by stress (we do have a toddler at home and another baby on the way) finding ways to maximize destressing is key in our lives. Finding a way to create spa-like experiences at home is an accessible and cost-effective way of helping Keegan.

Each person decompresses differently, which is why I've outlined some themes below we've found important for Keegan to explore and find his unique way of relaxing.

Find what feels good physically

Keegan loves a good foot soak and massage. If there's a 30-minute break at the end of the day where he wants to feel nice, you'll find him in a chair in the living room soaking his feet in a foot spa I found on Amazon. Or if he has longer breaks, an Epsom salt bath in the bathtub with the lights off, candles on, and listening to his favorite podcast. What's key, though, is finding what feels the best for him. Not everyone enjoys hot temperatures (or not super hot temperatures). Here are questions we found helpful when determining what physical relaxation techniques are best:

  • Does heat help you relax? If so, where, and how hot? (Too hot of a bath is bad for Keegan, but I enjoy scalding-hot water!)
  • When being touched, how deep does the pressure need to go? Are there sensitive areas during flare-ups to be careful around?
  • Do menthol and other analgesics feel nice? (Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't.)
  • What areas of the body quickly make you feel relaxed when touched? (For Keegan, it's lower back and feet.)
  • What smells are relaxing to you? Which smells are annoying, overpowering, or just unpleasant?
  • Have you had any caffeine or stimulants recently? Having a cup of coffee may not be the best to have right before trying to relax the body.

Find what feels good emotionally and mentally

Relaxation isn't complete without considering the mind! We've found that creating the right space and environment is key when helping Keegan destress. That is, how do you set a relaxing mood when pampering yourself? Consider some of the following:

  • What sounds best help you relax? Does music help or a podcast to follow along to? Or is quiet the most peaceful setting?
  • What lighting makes you feel at ease? Avoiding harsh, direct light often makes people feel more relaxed. Create some ambient low light!
  • Who helps you feel at ease? Can they come over and spend time with you while you destress? Or is it being alone and reconnecting to yourself? (Keegan and I often like to watch funny movies or TV shows while I pamper him. It kind of reminds me of sleepovers growing up!)
  • Does meditation, breathing exercises, or prayer help you reconnect to your inner self?

Pampering is an investment in health, not just a luxury

When we budget for healthcare in our family, creating at-home pampering is part of that. It took us a while to get used to the idea that purchasing items to help Keegan destress is part of tackling his AS symptoms. This is mostly true during a flare-up, when symptoms are at their worst and it's hard to not get bogged down in negative thinking. Stress is Keegan's #1 cause of flaring up. If we can prevent or minimize stress, then his health is impacted. It's not just a pedicure.

So when we're lucky to have Keegan go get a massage, we budget for it. But most of the time, it's the Matthews-McGee spa experience here in Pittsburgh full of lavender essential oil, chamomile tea, Parks and Recreation, and a good foot rub.

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