Apr 1, 2020

Six Tips for Managing Stress When you Have Arthritis

For anyone who has arthritis, stress can cause you to feel increased pain, make you more susceptible to flare-ups, and make it difficult to cope with the challenges that arthritis can inflict.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, “your body’s stress response triggers the release of chemicals that ready you to face the challenge. Your breathing quickens, your heart rate increases, and your muscles tense in preparation. This reaction is fine in the short term, but when it fires repeatedly, the increased tension in your muscles can amplify your arthritis pain. Stress also sets off the immune system’s inflammatory response. The longer you’re exposed to stress, the more destructive the inflammation can become.”

Unfortunately, stress is an inevitable part of life, and people who have arthritis have no choice but to confront the same stresses that healthy people face. Because of this, arthritis sufferers must be able to manage their stress. Keep reading for six tips to make this a little easier.

Keep a positive mindset.

Arthritis is an erratic and chronic disease. Redefining your life to fit new limitations is essential for those with arthritis. It can be easy to head down a negative and dark road, but it’s helpful to focus on the positive things in your life and embrace gratitude and optimism instead. Do something to make you appreciate your life a little more, like volunteering, writing down things you are grateful for in a journal, ore creating a gratitude jar. Arthritis is a challenge, but it doesn’t have to define you.

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Breathing and meditation.

Meditation techniques can help you reduce pain from arthritis by reducing stress and enabling you to cope better. Studies show that those with depression and arthritis achieved the most from meditation. With reduced stress comes reduced inflammation and pain.

Try not to let preconceived notions of mediation stop you from engaging in an act that can relieve the pain and inflammation brought on by arthritis. Meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting on the floor and breathing; it can mean yoga, walking on the beach, or just taking a few minutes for yourself to breathe deeply and have some peace. Whatever you do, remember that focusing on self-care can powerfully impact the stresses of your condition, as well as the stresses of living your busy everyday life!

Create an active lifestyle.

Exercising at least every other day is a must for any arthritis management plan. Not only will it help to ease pain, but it has shown to decrease anxiety, reduce stress, and increase levels of mood-boosting chemicals. Research shows that physical activity is also very effective at reducing fatigue and enhancing overall cognitive function. So not only does it help with stress, it assists many other struggles that arthritis sufferers face.

If you don’t currently have an exercise program, start slow and start small. Your daily workout can be as simple as a 20-minute walk or some gentle yoga. Look into activities that are comfortable for you and realistic for your body, such as swimming, Tai chi, yoga, or walking. As your body gets stronger, so will your mind.

Get a pet.

Pets come with some major mental health benefits! Many of us are unaware of the physical and psychological health benefits that can also accompany being a pet owner. It’s only recently that studies have begun to explore the benefits of the human-animal bond scientifically. Studies have found that:

  • Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
  • People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
  • While people with pets often experience the most significant health benefits, a pet doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog or a cat. Watching a gerbil run his wheel or fish swim in an aquarium can help lower pulse rate and reduce tension.
  • Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
  • Research shows that Alzheimer’s patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a dog or cat in the home.

Consider different medications.

Don’t rule out antidepressants or anxiety medications because of the stigma associated with these types of drugs. If you take medications to reduce stress or pain medication to ease pain, both medications improve your quality of life. And in the end, isn’t that goal? If this is something you decide to do, set aside time to talk with your doctor about benefits, risks, possible side effects, and how these may interact with other medicines you take.

Build a strong relationship with your doctor.

The best support system you can have is your doctor and your rheumatology team. Support and education provided by your arthritis doctor is always your best resource. Your doctor’s goal should be improving your quality of life, and that includes considering what you want. You and your doctor should work together as a team to figure out the best course of action for you and your life.

At Carolina Arthritis, we have six expert physicians who are all sympathetic, educated, and skilled. If you are considering consulting a rheumatologist, contact Carolina Arthritis Associates today. We are fully committed to offering you the highest level of care and meeting all your needs. Together we will explore your options and determine a treatment plan professionally and compassionately.