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Stress and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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RA Stress Buster 3: Make Some Lifestyle Changes

  • Work around problems. When RA symptoms flare up, everyday tasks can become painful and frustrating. Don’t just suffer -- come up with solutions. If typing hurts your hands, look into voice recognition software for your computer. Maybe new utensils with bigger grips will make cooking easier. Small improvements could have a big effect on your pain and stress level.
  • Don't smoke. While some people with RA smoke to deal with the stress of their condition, that's not a good idea. Studies have found that smoking can make RA worse and make medication less effective.
  • Do what works. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to stress reduction. Think about activities that have calmed you in the past, such as talking to a trusted friend, reading on the patio, or seeing a movie. Build those calming activities into your weekly schedule -- even when you don't feel you have the time. If you push yourself too hard and get stressed out, your RA symptoms may flare up, and that could really throw you off track.

RA Stress Buster 4: Get Support

  • See a therapist. Talk to a psychologist, social worker, or counselor. Together, you can learn new ways to cope with daily stress at work and home, as well as explore deeper, unsettled issues. If your stress is getting unmanageable, medication for anxiety or depression may help, too.
  • Join a support group. By meeting other people with RA, you'll learn new ways to cope with symptoms and feel less alone. Crunched for time? Online support groups offer support and access to others living with RA. Studies have found that support groups can even reduce pain.
  • Take a role in your treatments. Research shows that people with RA who take an active role in their treatment feel less pain. And they need to see the doctor less often. Learn about your disease. Ask your doctor questions. You'll gain a sense of control by becoming a well-informed participant in your own care -- and that can cut down on your stress.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on March 22, 2014
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