8 RA Stress-Busters You Can Do at Your Desk

It's good for anyone to learn how to relieve stress, and it’s extra-important if you have rheumatoid arthritis.

Feeling worried and tense makes some people's RA symptoms worse. Just living with the disease can be a lot to handle.

Sometimes it's tricky to manage stress, especially at work. When things get hectic, you have to stay on task. Use these eight stress-busters to keep calm and carry on.

1. Stretch. Aim to take 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.

2. Breathe deeply. Take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed or open. Inhale through the nose, feeling your chest expand. Then exhale through your mouth. Repeat.

3. Relax your muscles. Slowly relax all the muscle groups in your body. Start with your feet and end with your head. First, tense the muscles for about 8 seconds. Then relax them, and feel the tension melt away.

4. Focus on a soothing image. Keep pictures on your desk or a slideshow of pictures on your computer that relax you. Choose whatever you like -- a favorite vacation spot, pictures of loved ones, adorable kittens. Anything that makes you smile or feel calm helps.

5. Listen. Slip on a pair of headphones for a few minutes. Play a song that gives you happy, soothing thoughts. Or listen to relaxing natural sounds, like ocean waves or a waterfall.

6. Smell. Certain scents -- like lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood -- can ease stress for some people. 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.

7. Write in a journal. When you’re feeling anxious, 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, write 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.

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8. 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. What is it that bothers you? Are you behind on a project? Did your boss say something that upset you? Once you have a clearer sense of the problem, you can come up with a solution. You'll feel more in control and less tense.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 13, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Arthritis Foundation: "Easy Meditation Options for Pain," "How to Manage the Stress of Arthritis."

Cleveland Clinic: "Relaxation and Other Alternative Approaches for Managing Headaches."

Stanley Cohen, MD, clinical professor of internal medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School; co-director, division of rheumatology, Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas.

Darlene Lee, NP, nurse practitioner, practice manager, rheumatology clinic, University of California, San Francisco.

Jane McCabe, MS, OTR/L, CAPS, occupational therapist, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, Laguna Hills, CA.

Patience White, MD, rheumatologist, vice president of public health, Arthritis Foundation. 

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