Stress and RA at Work: 6 Relaxation Techniques to Ease Workday Pressure
If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and you work, you are familiar with the challenges RA presents in the workplace. Whether you're sitting at a desk or on your feet all day, driving from appointment to appointment, or facing the elements at an outside job, stress management and relaxation techniques can help you get through the day with less pain.
Here, experts offer 6 tips to keep you feeling mobile and relaxed. They may take some practice, but try to work them into your daily life.
Studies have shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis who see a rheumatologist regularly (several times a year) do better than people who visit erratically or not at all. The first step is finding one!
Your primary care doctor can refer you to a rheumatologist. If you like your doctor and have a good relationship, chances are good you'll get along with the rheumatologist your doctor recommends.
You may be able to see a rheumatologist directly without a referral; check your insurance plan...
Use guided imagery, also called creative visualization, to get through a stressful meeting or other encounter.
This technique helps you imagine things unfolding as you want them to. First, banish the negative thoughts and scripts in your head. Next, let the scene of a successful meeting or review by your boss play out just as you would like it to go.
To learn how to do it, you can consult a psychologist familiar with it or take a self-help course.
2. Learn and Practice a Relaxation Response
To cut stress off before it builds, a relaxation response can help -- a physical state of rest that changes your physical and emotional response to stress.
You begin by sitting quietly, eyes closed and progressively relaxing your muscles, beginning at your feet and moving up to your face. Next, become aware of your breathing, counting silently as you continue to breathe easily. Gently push distracting thoughts out of your mind as you relax further.
It's quick. You can do this in 10 to 20 minutes.
3. Take Productive and Frequent Breaks
If you sit all day, then focus on moving during your breaks. And walk while you work: If you need to make some copies, go to a machine on another floor. Walk to the desk of the colleague to talk instead of e-mailing. Try to take at least a short break after sitting for an hour or so, and you may be surprised at how much better and less stiff you feel.
Massage reduces stress. When you can, squeeze in a 10-minute chair massage, popular at many malls now, over lunch hour.
If your job involves working on your feet all day long, try to take shorter, more frequent breaks that get you off your feet.
If you drive long distances during the workday, use cruise control if you have it whenever possible to reduce stress on your leg. That way, you can rotate your ankles and may feel less stiff once at your destination.
If you spend all day typing, even taking a break of a few seconds will make a difference. When you hit the end of a page, for instance, sit for a couple seconds and rest.
If you're on the phone a lot, stand up and talk sometimes; it may lessen stiffness.