Rheumatoid Arthritis: 7 Tips for Keeping Life Normal & Better Living
8 minute read
Learning you have rheumatoid arthritis may feel like you are stepping into a new life with a complication you never asked for and certainly don’t want. As sufferers learn about the complications and problems they’ll face while battling this autoimmune disease, the outlook can appear dim.
But there are numerous reason to brighten up. It’s possible to live well, if not better, with rheumatoid arthritis, and we’ve got some tips to help you through.
Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disorder that typically affects joints in the hands and wrists, causing swelling and pain that can limit movement. It’s an autoimmune disorder, which means that your immune system is mistakenly attaching your own tissues.
RA is a very common type of arthritis and is pretty well understood, which means that there are a variety of treatment options available. One of the problems with RA is that it doesn’t respond in a constant manner, both in how it affects individuals and how it responds to medication.
One key to learning how to live with RA is to begin to understand how it affects you and how your body responds. This may mean keeping notes or a journal, ignoring what other have to say about how it affects them, and keeping an open dialogue going with your doctor, so you can both learn which paths you respond to best.
The following tips will help you live with RA and learn to work around symptoms to thrive and stop focusing on the bad and embrace the good days.
1. Take Note of Your RA
You may feel that you’re at a loss when you begin tracking your RA symptoms. Get started by keeping the following points in mind. As you journal and take notes, you may notice trends specific to you or other important aspects not mentioned. Avoiding RA surprises helps ease your transition.
Swollen, tender, and warm joints. Pain in your joints is common with most types of arthritis but the degrees of pain can vary and placement varies as well. Track the areas where you have pain and keep note of the intensity and duration.
Times and activities. Are there certain times of day when your RA is worse or are there activities that seem to set off the pain? Learning when your RA may strike is a big step in finding the right treatment plan for you.
Additional symptoms. Do you have fatigue, fever, or changes in weight with your RA? Maybe you even have other symptoms that seem unrelated at first but continue to crop up when you’re having an RA episode.
Understanding your illness, symptoms and treatment options are the first step in getting RA under control.
2. Stay Positive
Feeling bad is natural at times, and some days you need to have those feelings, embrace them, and work through them. But you can’t let them overshadow your life and take over.
There are times when you’re going to feel fantastic and you can do all the things you love. And then there are days when that’s going to be difficult. Changing your internal dialogue and not beating yourself up over bad days will help you live a happier and more fulfilled life.
It will also help you appreciate those good days even more.
3. Expand Your Circle of Support
Your friends and family can be a great touchstone for you and keep you grounded. But there will be times when they’re just not enough because they simply cannot understand what you’re going through.
Likewise, having a great medical team on your side will help you understand new symptoms and how to control them, but they may not be able to provide the emotional support you crave. These two groups together give you a good, well-balanced circle of support, but you can do better.
Reach out to other sufferers and find some RA support groups that fit your personality. These people not only understand the medical side of your struggle with RA, but they also get the emotional side as they’re going through it too. Everyone can get RA, celebrities included.
4. Keep Learning
Stay on top of news in the field of RA. Whether there’s a new study that has findings that apply to you, a potential miracle drug that’s coming out, or joint supplements that can help you get through the day. All of this information helps you stay on top of your RA and keep ahead of the illness.
5. Listen to Your Body
If your body says you need a little extra rest, then it’s probably best that you play along and save your energy. If your body is feeling great, then take advantage of this good day and participate in some activities that you love and that bring you joy.
The human body is a remarkable thing, and it understands what’s going on in significant ways, giving you subtle (and not-so subtle) cues on how to react.
6. Become a Health Nut
You don’t have to go overboard, but there are probably a few bad habits you can leave behind and even more good ones you can adopt. While changing habits can be hard, the rewards are worth it.
| Related: The Arthritis Diet: Which Foods to Eat and Which to Avoid |
Developing healthy habits for RA not only helps you manage your disease and symptoms, it’s great for you and your whole family to adopt a healthier approach to living.
7. Keep Doing What You Love
A quality life is fueled by the things you love. Don’t let RA take that away from you, this may mean you have to adapt a little bit, but you don’t have to give up the things that give your life meaning.
If you were a mountain climber before RA, you might find that that sort of taxing activity is too much for you, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. You can still get outside and spend hours enjoying the view, the fresh air, and the peace that comes from being out there.
| Related: 7 Simple Hand Exercises to Help Fight Arthritis |
And you might be able to find great joy in teaching others the basic skills of mountain climbing, writing about your experiences, or sharing your technical knowledge.
The Bottom Line
A large part of any diagnosis is not letting it take over. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do anymore, turn the tables and focus on what you still can do.
Sometimes this new approach and viewing your life from a different angle can give you important insight on how truly amazing you really are. RA may have to be a part of your life, but you are the one in control.