Stress can make your RA worse, so you’ll want to take action to keep that from happening.
Use these four proven methods to curb stress ASAP.
1. Make Exercise a Priority
When your joints ache, you might not feel like going for a brisk walk or swimming laps. Try your best to do something, anyway.
Being active is especially good for people with RA. It eases pain, improves mood, lowers stress, and helps keep joints mobile.
If you’re not active now, ask your doctor what’s OK for you to do. Pace yourself, too. You may need to take it easier when you have a flare.
If your symptoms get in the way of exercise, work with a physical therapist -- one who specializes in treating people with RA. You'll learn ways to build strength, feel better, and zap stress.
2. Calm Your Mind
Studies show that meditation can help improve mood, reduce distress, and ease pain. Meditation can be as simple as focusing your attention on your breathing. Your mind will wander to other topics. That’s OK. Just turn your attention back to your breath, or whatever else you choose to focus on.
You could also try guided imagery. To do this, you picture in your mind places or situations you find relaxing. Try to use all your senses, and imagine seeing it, smelling it, feeling it.
3. Make Some Lifestyle Changes
Work around problems. When RA symptoms flare up, everyday tasks can be harder to do. Look for solutions. If typing hurts your hands, try voice recognition software for your computer. In the kitchen, you might find that new utensils with bigger grips make cooking easier. These little changes can take some of the stress off you.
Keep up with your sleep. Get up and go to bed at the same time each day to set a regular sleep cycle. If you can, don't take work home from the office. Turn off the TV, computer, and phone at least an hour before bed.
Do what you love. Think about activities you enjoy, such as having coffee with a friend, reading, or seeing a movie. Build those activities into your weekly schedule.
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 rheumatoid arthritis worse and make medication less effective.
4. Get Support
Partner with your doctor. Let him know how you’re doing. Tell him about any problems you have. Bring up any questions or concerns you have.
See a therapist. Talk to a psychologist, social worker, or counselor. Even a few appointments can help you find ways to handle your challenges.
Join a support group. You can talk with other people who know what you’re going through because they face similar challenges. Online support groups are another option.