Creating a Plan for the Year with RA

Patient Expert

Do you have a Good Planning System, aka a GPS? Whether you are new to rheumatoid arthritis, or are a veteran, your GPS can help you wind your way through the year.

I'm not a big fan of resolutions, or set-in-cement plans; instead, I prefer to have a little less rigidity in my days, especially since I have enough rigidity with immobile joints. My GPS operates as guidelines, which allow me the freedom to explore, create and take advantage of opportunities that I might miss, or activities that might need to be altered or adapted, if I am so focused on one outcome. Besides, you know what they say about well-laid plans....

I like to do a Stop - Start - Continue exercise that I once did with my colleagues at a year-end meeting when I was working as a teacher at an elementary school.

The principal wanted to know our opininion on a number of policies and procedures. In groups, we brainstormed the things we wanted to stop, start and continue doing for the next school year.

As someone who has RA, can you use Stop - Start - Continue?

Here are some ideas to help get you started:


  • Putting yourself last. Remember T.O.T.O.M. (Theory of the Oxygen Mask) - prior to take-off, flight attendants advise those passengers who are travelling with children to put their own oxygen masks on first, in the unlikely event of an emergency. Do as much as you can to look after yourself, so you have the desire and energy to help your family, friends or community.
  • Thinking that a flare-up this morning might be signs of worse to come. The stress you experience could augment those fires in your joints. (This has been a very positive thing for me to do. Instead of worrying about what it could mean, I remind myself that the swelling in my joints could quickly pass. I'm happy to say that it usually does)
  • Ignoring your heartmindbody. To me, it's one word because it's all connected. One does affect the other, which is why it's important to address your needs holistically - emotionally, mentally, and physically.


  • Assembling your support team (doctors, occupational therapist, physical therapist, coach, etc.)
  • Asking for advice to see if there is a way to modify something you can no longer do.
  • Getting exercise.
  • Eating well.
  • Exercising your curiosity - learn, explore, discover!
  • Doing the things that make your heart sing.


  • Building habits that support your health and well-being.
  • Shifting your focus to what you can do, as opposed to what you can't do.
  • Having fun. If you're not sure what that looks like, experiment. You could subscribe to an on-line event service, such as Brown Paper Tickets, or one of the daily deal sites. You'll have a chance to sample activities and go to events, often at a reduced rate. Who knows what new love you'll discover!
  • Addressing and undressing your stress. Soaking in negative thoughts and emotions (negative thinking and feeling), impacts the ability of the body to regulate inflammation. When you develop and practice good emotional management skills (stress skills), you are better-able to weather the storms that may come your way. Additionally, your emotional, mental and physical performance improves.

You may wish to create a small ceremony using Stop - Start - Continue as the focal point. Make it special - light some candles, choose a favorite piece of music, read a poem, do this outside at sunrise or sunset, or record your thoughts in a journal that is reserved for this occasion. This activity marks your past, present and future and is a great way to honor your life's journey. Who you are. How far you've come. What you've learned and left behind. What you do. How you hope to be. What you wish to accomplish.

Point to yourself. There's a good chance you're pointing to your heart. This is the essence of who, what and how you are. This is place where you'll find your questions and your answers. Learn to tune in to the quiet whisperings of your heart to help you recalibrate your GPS.

There's a poem by Linda Ellis called The Dash, which signifies the life between the birth and death dates on a gravestone. It's a good reminder to do what you can to live your best life - to learn, to change, and to grow. To love.