Oct 25, 2018

Six Strategies on How to Stay Positive When Living with Arthritis

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We are all too familiar with the physical side of arthritis; the achy joints, endless fatigue, and the overwhelming stiffness. But there is a rarely discussed emotional side as well; the stress, anxiety, and depression that can accompany arthritis. Understanding the link between your physical symptoms and your emotions is an important part of the management process. Arthritis can be greatly discouraging, but there are ways you can brighten your outlook on life even if all you want to do is crawl back under the covers. Here are six strategies on how to stay positive when living with arthritis.

The connection.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, “Having any form of arthritis can have a negative effect on your mental health. This most commonly manifests as depression or anxiety.  It works the other way around, too. Mental health problems can make your arthritis worse.” Not only does your mood affect your arthritis and your arthritis affects your moods, but studies show that having anxiety and depression can lower your pain threshold making your pain even more unbearable. You can easily find yourself in a vicious cycle of never ending pain, poor health and negativity. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it. Start implementing these steps to help you get a handle on stress, pain and anxiety and lower your chances of arthritis-related depression.

Get moving.

Although arthritis has obvious mechanical effects on your body, it’s important to keep moving. Maintaining regular exercise is key to relieving the pain and aches brought on by arthritis. There are plenty of activities that you can still participate in, which will help you live well and live actively, even with arthritis. Not only can low impact activities such as walking, swimming, biking, and yoga reduce pain, it can boost your mood. The American College of Rheumatology recommends an exercise program that includes strength training, aerobic exercises, and range-of-motion, and stretching exercises. The physical activity helps to lower stress and release endorphins helping to battle depression.

Relax.

Meditation, yoga, and tai chi are all great tools for relaxing, which can help you deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. Yoga and tai chi can also help with joint coordination, posture, and balance.

Get enough rest.

Quality rest is good for the body and mind. Adequate sleep also aids in making consistent and positive lifestyle choices. Things like eating healthy and staying active go out the window if you are feeling run down. If you feel refreshed and energized, your mood and outlook will improve. To set your sleep cycle up for success, start by selecting a specific bedtime and stick to it. Start getting ready well before your designated time and when it is time for lights out, make sure your room is very dark. Also ensure your room is tidy and keep the temperature slightly chilly for optimal rest.

Reset your thinking.

When coping with an arthritis diagnosis, it can be easy to go to a dark place. However, it can be helpful to focus instead on the positive things in your life and embrace optimism instead. Arthritis is a challenge, but it’s not the end of the world. Everyone has their own struggles, and focusing on others and being empathetic isn’t just a good distraction—it’s also good for the world. Try volunteering for a cause that is important to you. This is a great way to keep your struggles in perspective and contribute some good to the world.

Surround yourself with a good support system.

Having a strong support system of family and friends will help you cope better when dealing with arthritis. Being with family and friends will lift your mood and can give you people to turn to when you need help or an ear to bend. It also helps to find a group who also faces your struggles. Studies have proven that arthritis support groups can improve moods, provide coping skills, reduce pain, and provide a reprieve from negative emotions. But remember, one of the best support systems you can have behind you is your rheumatology team. Support and education provided by your arthritis doctor is always your best resource.

If you have any questions on your physical or mental health, call the team at Carolina Arthritis today. We would love to be a part of your support system and help you live your best, positive life!