Life With RA: It's the Little Things

Patient Expert

When you live with rheumatoid arthritis, it's often the little things--things that many people take for granted--that can present big challenges on a daily basis. There are challenges that can exhaust you, frustrate you, and prevent you from doing the things you want or need to do. You may be familiar with some of these challenges, but how familiar are you with the solutions?

Challenge. It's easy to open a carton of milk, right? Not at all. Try sticking a knife between the two glued sections of waxed cardboard and you'll have a better chance of “opening” your skin than the carton All is not lost, though: an internet search revealed a solution: The Tip Top Opener. (Has anyone tried this gadget?)

2. It's not easy to use the automatic teller or the payment machines at public parking lots, gas stations and even at public transit outlets. You can get the card in, but it's often a struggle to pull it out from the slot.

3. Your healthcare provider's office is not necessarily a place of compassion and accommodation for the people who keep it "in business," The frustration may begin with the first point of contact. Have you ever experienced that annoying phone call from the receptionist who leaves a message that is difficult to decipher? The crucial information, like the phone number, doctor's name and appointment time, might be spoken too quickly to understand. Training for receptionists needs to include how to leave a clear and concise message for patients who may have hearing loss or other disabilities.

The office itself may not always be easily accessible. Heavy door or inaccessible floor? Once inside, you may be dismayed by chairs that are too low, as I noted at the last appointment I had with a new rheumatologist. At the very least, provide chair cushions to make it easier for the mobility-challenged or hip-and-knee-replaced patient to use.

4. First impressions count. It's no different with places of business. Access is made that much easier with a push-button door switch. If one is present, it should be operational. I've often noted that once you get into the business, the bunched-up welcome mat presents a tripping hazard. I'll straighten it out, but I think that staff should be trained to be on the look-out for these small things that could have a big impact.

Solution. Your one (small) voice can make a difference. Write a letter or leave a comment through a website, as I recently did in regard to a broken push-button door switch on a very heavy door to a restaurant. I'm happy to report that it was quickly repaired.

2. Join your voice to that of many by raising an issue with a mobility/accessibility advocacy group or The Arthritis Foundation.

3. Search out to see if there is a petition addressing your topic of concern on If not, start one.

4. Use the power of your social media platforms to respectfully effect change.

5. Keep in mind that it's not just the big things that can stress you out. When you spend a lot of time immersed in negative thoughts and feelings, you can be triggering the stress response. That leads to more inflammation, something you don't need when you have RA. It's important that you work on transforming your stress on a regular basis. You can do that with little things--little behaviors that, when you string them together, give you a necklace made of pearls of wisdom.

6. Kim Weiss, author of Sunrise, Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe and Gratitude, writes “Mother Nature shares her breathtaking sunrises and sunsets most days for me to snap with my camera. I ultimately share these treasured moments online with fellow sun worshippers and there a community is growing that share their sunrise/sunset moments with me. These are my meditations. First I take in the beauty and experience a sense of wonder and awe. Then that feeling seeps into my heart and transforms into gratitude. Because of this beauty, I am better equipped to face whatever the day has to offer.”

Practice the art and science of Little Things. Learn to shift your focus to things that matter. things that will leave you feeling better. Advocate. Spend time in nature. Find people who brighten your spirits. Do the things you love.

Find appreciation for the things that make your heart sing. Now, doesn't that feel better?

See More Helpful Articles:

RA and the Important of Self-Compassion

The Truth About What RA Takes Away

Maintaining Hobbies When You Have RA

Marianna Paulson is known as Auntie Stress. On her website, you'll find links to her two blogs, Auntie Stress Cafe and the award-winning, A Rheumful of Tips. She also publishes a mostly monthly newsletter called The Connective Issue. Sign up here to receive information, tips, and to learn about giveaways.