Resolutions for A Better Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis

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The new year is only a few days away, and this means that resolutions are everywhere. Most of them will fall by the wayside by mid-January as we give into the siren call of cookies, and start to use the treadmill as a place to store stuff. So why not break out of the old mold and make some resolutions that will last and have a positive impact on your life with rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Stay informed

It can be scary and exhausting to read about RA and all the different ways it can mess up your body. On the other hand, staying informed is a major building block in becoming empowered and being on top of your disease. You don’t have to immerse yourself in the subject every day. Getting the headlines and reading the articles that interest you is enough. Subscribe to our newsletter to get those headlines delivered to your inbox.

Make the most of your appointments with your rheumatologist

Appointments with your rheumatologist can be a blur, leaving you with unanswered questions. Make the most of the time with your doctor by preparing for your appointment. Bring copies of test results and write down your questions, bringing a copy for you, another for your doctor. Be honest about how you feel, not just the day of the appointment, but in general. If you need more time than usual, ask the receptionist to book a double appointment for you.

Build a diverse healthcare team

Your rheumatologist is the cornerstone of your RA care, but there are a number of other healthcare professionals who can help you cope with RA. Occupational and physical therapists can get you moving and functioning better, a nutritionist can help you eat healthier, a massage therapist can assist you in managing pain. Find out what services are available and gradually book appointments when you have time and energy to add something new.

Be playful

Life can be very serious when you have a chronic illness. Your symptoms, medical appointments, and the fatigue can take up most of your life. Try to create time to play. Play reminds us that we are human, engages a creative side of our brain that may develop problem-solving skills, and best of all, relaxes us. Fly a kite, play board games with your kids, take a minute to stomp through puddles. It’ll make you feel better.

Connect with others who have RA

Even if your friends and family are supportive, there is a gap when you don’t know anyone who lives with RA. Quite simply, there is nothing like meeting someone who knows exactly how you feel. Making connections in the RA online community can help you feel less alone and isolated. It is like meeting your tribe. These friends will help you find the information you need, support you at any time of the day, share your tears, and share your joys. Join us on the RA HealthCentral Facebook page to connect, share, vent and laugh with others.

Manage stress and other triggers

Stress is a common trigger for RA flares, as well as emotional exhaustion. Practicing mindfulness can be a useful way to cope with chronic illness and pain. Meditation is also an excellent stress management technique. Even 10-20 minutes of meditating a day can make a difference. Listen to your body and organize your day based on what it tells you whenever possible.

Move every day

Moving as much as you can will keep your joints mobile, and build up your muscles. Stronger muscles support your joints, and reduce pain. Base your physical activity on the level of RA. If you’re flaring or your RA is severe, range of motion exercises may be enough. If you’re doing well, more strenuous activity is possible. Doing a bit more today than you did yesterday — even walking just one more step — will help you build strength and stamina.

Don't be ashamed of your body

RA can cause changes to your body, such as nodules, joint deformities, or surgery scars. If that happens to you, don’t hide. All bodies are beautiful, and those that show sign of wear or battle even more so. These changes are badges of honor, visible signs that you have gone through something hard and come out the other side. Be proud of them. Be proud of yourself.

Laugh every day

Yes, you have RA, but life continues anyway. Make the most of yours. Throw yourself into the hobbies that you’re passionate about, adventures with your loved ones, vigorous debates, and laugh. Laugh every day, even if it’s the dark gallows humor kind of laugh. Laugh at the ridiculousness of medical appointments, and the antics of your pet or kids. Finding laughter will make your life better.