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Knowing how to relieve stress is good -- and even better if you have RA.

In some people, stress can make RA symptoms worse. And just living with rheumatoid arthritis can be a lot to handle.

Sometimes it's tricky to manage stress, especially at work. When things get hectic, you can't just pop out for a soak in a hot tub or a massage. But these eight stress-busters can leave you calm without leaving your desk.

  • Stretch. Aim for taking a break every half-hour to stretch, walk around, and clear your head. When you can't, stretch at your desk. Try to move all your joints. Arch your back. Shrug your shoulders. Stretch your arms above your head. Make claws with your hands. Under your desk, flex your ankles and toes.
  • Breathe deeply. With your eyes closed or open, take a few deep breaths. Breathe in through the nose, feeling your chest expand. Then breathe out through your mouth. Repeat.
  • Relax your muscles. Slowly relax all the muscle groups in your body, starting with your feet and ending with your head. First, tense the muscles for about eight seconds. Then relax them, and feel the tension melt away.
  • Focus on a soothing image. Keep pictures on your desk or a slideshow of pictures on your computer that calm you down. Choose whatever you like -- a family vacation spot, pictures of your kids, adorable kittens. Anything that makes you smile or that you connect with calmness helps.
  • Listen. Slip on a pair of headphones for a few minutes. Listen to a song that gives you happy, soothing thoughts. Or try relaxing natural sounds, like ocean waves or a waterfall. 
  • Smell. For some people, certain scents -- like lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood -- can reduce stress. Keep a bottle of scented hand lotion on your desk and use it when you need a little aromatherapy. Get products with real essential oils instead of artificial scents.
  • Write in a journal. When you’re feeling stressed, clear off your desk and take out a pad -- or clear your screen and open a new file -- and write for a few minutes. Studies show that writing down what you're feeling can make you feel better and even lower your blood pressure. If keeping a journal feels awkward, try writing an email about your feelings to your best friend. When you're done, you can decide to send it or just keep it to yourself.
  • Think about what's stressing you. We often try to push stuff out of our heads to calm down. But facing it head-on can help too. Don't let yourself sit there with vague, formless worry. Think about what it is that's bothering you. Are you behind on a project? Did your boss say something that upset you?

Once you have a clearer sense of what’s bugging you, you can come up with a solution. You'll feel more in control -- and less stressed.

 

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