Living with RA, you have less energy than you used to. So treat it like a precious resource. Use it wisely. Figure out how to use less energy to do what you need to do.
Saving energy means rethinking how you do things. Where do you waste energy? What hurts or wears you out? Hectic mornings? Tying your shoes? Cooking dinner?
Then come up with ways to make things easier.
- Revise your schedule. Take a look at your day and try to spread out chores and other tasks evenly. Let's say your mornings are especially hard. Your symptoms are worse and there's so much to do in such a short time -- making breakfast, getting the kids off to school, getting to work. Switch some tasks to other times of the day. For instance, set out tomorrow’s clothes -- for yourself as well as your kids -- the night before.
- Do things in short spurts. Frost suggests gardening, cleaning, or doing anything else in 30-minute blocks of time. "Once that half-hour is over, do something else," she says. Just changing your position and activity can help prevent pain and fatigue.
- Live smarter. "You can reduce fatigue by making your environment easier to negotiate," says Patience White, MD, a rheumatologist and vice president for public health at the Arthritis Foundation. Use assistive devices. Get some kitchen utensils, pots, and pans with fatter grips so that they're easier to hold. Replace your doorknobs with handles, which will be easier to grasp.
- Get help. Get your family to take over some of the heavier chores. Have someone else carry laundry baskets upstairs or fill the pasta pot with water. Don't plan to cook dishes that require a lot of chopping unless you have someone to help, Frost says. Or buy precut vegetables.
Talk to Your Doctor
Fatigue is pretty common with RA, but you should still talk about it with your doctor. In some cases, they can help.
- Some RA medications can make you tired. Changing the dosage or timing, or switching to a different drug, can give you more energy.
- RA can cause depression, which can cause serious fatigue. Your doctor can help you decide if seeing a therapist could help. Medication may help, too.
- Other medical issues -- like anemia, fibromyalgia, and thyroid problems -- can drain your energy, so it's important to find out if your RA is really to blame. Getting treatment can restore some energy.
Your regular RA medications should help, too. "Fatigue gets better when your RA gets under control," White says. Make sure you're getting the right meds and stick to your treatment plan.