How to Keep an Arthritis Diagnosis From Hurting Your Emotional Health
8 minute read
Getting any diagnosis of an ongoing disease is not easy, and arthritis is no different. This is an emotionally troubling time and in addition to learning how to live with a disease, you have to learn how to handle your feelings.
The mind and body are closely linked, and you might begin to understand that in ways you never did before once you start living with an arthritis diagnosis. If you’re having a physically bad day and experiencing pain, you might discover that you’re less patient, understanding, and happy than usual.
Likewise, you may find that good news or a positive attitude buoys you through the day and makes regular aches and pains less disruptive. In this way you can see that tending to your emotional wellbeing is just as important as managing your physical symptoms.
Physical Symptoms of Arthritis
Arthritis is an overarching term that is used to categorize the inflammation of one or more of you joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness but, because each type of arthritis can affect you differently, and because individuals respond in their own way, there are many other symptoms associated with this diagnosis.
Pain and achiness: Differing degrees of discomfort are common, even for the same person.
Swelling: Joints that are constantly aggravated naturally respond. The swelling accompanies discomfort and a changed appearance of those joints.
Redness: In addition to seeing some swelling, it’s not uncommon to see redness in the joints.
Stiffness: It may take a while for joints to loosen up, and even then, they might feel stiff.
Decreased range of motion: You may find your symptoms go beyond stiffness and you might not have the mobility you once had.
Shortness of breath and chest pain: This is not a symptom with all types of arthritis, but it is definitely something a person with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis may experience.
How to Boost Emotional Health
Just as each person has different diagnoses and reactions, they also react differently to stressors in life.
The first step is understanding yourself and what emotions you’re likely to feel. Some people will feel great sorrow with an arthritis diagnosis, some will get angry, and others will see it as just another challenge to overcome.
Obviously, individual approaches to emotional health and wellbeing are needed, but the following general tips can help anyone, even people without an arthritis diagnosis, nurture their emotional side.
1. Get medical care: The first step in managing your emotional health when you’re diagnosed with arthritis is to get your physical symptoms under control. Not only will your healthcare professional be able to do that, they can also help you understand your arthritis better so you know what to expect.
2. Join a support group: Living with an illness can feel isolating. Joining a support group helps you connect with others who have the same or similar concerns.
Another great benefit of being in a support group is that you can help others. It feels great, emotionally, to be able to help another person through a difficult time. This is a win/win situation for everyone involved.
3. Mind/body exercises: Arthritis is often worsened with stress, so taking the time to learn some ways to strengthen mind/body health can help you reduce stress and pain while boosting your positive emotions.
4. Exercise: There have been many studies that show that exercise and emotional health are closely connected. The problem for arthritis sufferers is that your arthritis symptoms can limit your exercise. But the good news is it doesn’t have to prevent you from exercising.
| Related: 7 Simple Hand Exercises to Fight Arthritis |
A great first step would be to chat with a physical therapist to devise a program that’s custom made for you. Be sure to discuss how much you can do on good days and how many limitations you have on bad days, that way you can modify as needed.
5. Diet: What you eat is very important both to your arthritis symptoms and your emotional wellbeing.
The first step is to research how you can improve arthritis through diet. This is where knowing the details of your arthritis and understanding your symptoms can make all the difference in the world.
Some types of arthritis respond well to certain supplements, specifically joint health supplements, and others are better maintained with dietary modifications.
The next step is to understand how diet and emotional health work together. While a pint of ice cream may feel like an immediate solution, in the long run it can cause more problems than good. But transforming your diet into one that supports mental health can bring huge rewards.
6. Explore creativity: Art and music therapy are fantastic ways to take your mind off your aches and pains and focus them on other things. For more information on its benefits, try visiting the website for the American Music Therapy Association.
7. Do things you enjoy: One of the best ways to beat stress and be happy is to focus on the things you love to do. If you’re afraid that your arthritis will keep you from enjoying your favorite activities, it’s time to think outside of the box and see ways you might enjoy them that were different from before.
8. Be honest: While you’re learning to live with arthritis, it’s important to acknowledge your emotions. It’s okay to feel miserable, angry, and frustrated.
These are all natural and normal emotions. The key is not letting yourself dwell on these emotions or letting them take over your thought process.
Give yourself a moment to recognize how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. Then try to refocus those thoughts on the good things in your life.
The Bottom Line
If you’re finding it too difficult to move past the negative feelings you’re having, then it’s time to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help you process your emotions better than an article on the internet. Plus, if needed, they can give you a prescription that will help you sort through this difficult time.
In the future you may find that adding a professional in the mental health field is one of the most important steps you can take toward overall health and wellbeing. In the meantime, take advantage of as many ways to improve your overall well-being as you can.