How To Cope When RA Complicates Your Life


The Emotional Health Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Managing Emotional Health

Living with RA means experiencing a whole host of emotions and these change day to day, depending on how you are feeling physically. These feelings can lead to low moods and depression.

Stress and depression make living with RA even harder so it is important to learn to cope with stressors and recognize the signs of depression. Most importantly, RA is challenging enough so don’t try to do it alone.

Stress

RA and stress can be a vicious cycle if we allow it. And stress leads to increased disease activity and more pain. Therefore, it is important to identify and manage the stressors in your life.

Depression

Recognizing depression and treating it is essential for overall well-being and managing RA.

Being depressed with RA causes:

  • More pain
  • Increased risk for heart attack
  • Loss of productivity
  • Struggles in personal relationship
  • Decreased response to RA treatment

Moreover, people with RA whose depression is addressed have better health outcomes.

If you are depressed, do not try to convince yourself depression will go away on their own. Get the help you need and deserve.

Support

Living with RA can be lonely so it is important to stay connected with people who can help you to cope.

Here are some ways to stay connected:

  • Talk to others with the same illness. Sharing and learning from others who have similar concerns and fears about RA can help you to cope. You find a local support group in your area or try one of the many online support groups out there.
  • Let loved ones help you. Many people in your life want to help you. Let them.
  • Yes, there will be days where you don’t want anyone’s help or advice. And that is okay, but make sure you reach out when you can.
  • Talk to a professional. There will be things about living with RA you may not want to share with loved ones or a support group. At that point, you may want to get in touch with a therapist who can listen and offer ideas to help you cope.
  • Don’t do it alone. Because of the complications of rheumatoid arthritis, there will be days that are harder than others to get through. These are the times to remind yourself you are not alone, and that are people out there who get it, understand and want to help.

Coping Through a Flare

If you have RA, you what a flare-up is:

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  • Extreme joint pain
  • Swelling and stiffness
  • Debilitating fatigue

Flares happen even if your RA is controlled.

Here some ways to help you cope through a flare:

  • Reduce joint stress. During flares, your joints are painful so resting them is important. If you need to get around the house use a cane or walker to help get the weight off your stressed joints.
  • Stretch. Lack of activity will make your joints stiffer and more painful. During a flare, you do not want to attempt any strenuous exercise, but stretching and other gentle activity may help you get through a flare.
  • Manage stress. Stress contributes to flares, but there are some things you can during to manage stress during a flare, including practicing yoga, deep breathing or meditation, gentle massages, or taking warm baths.
  • Eat right. While you should always aim to eat right with RA, it is even more important during a flare.
  • Stay away from foods known for triggering flares, such as processed foods and sweets. Eat foods that help bring the inflammation down, including fish, foods containing vitamin D and fruits and vegetables.

Resources

Arthritis Foundation (How RA Inflammation Affects Your Health)

Arthritis Foundation (More Than Just Joints: How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects the Rest of Your Body)

National Institutes of Health (State and Trait Pain Catastrophizing and Emotional Health in Rheumatoid Arthritis)

Arthritis Foundation (The Emotion–Pain Connection)

Arthritis Foundation (Rheumatoid Arthritis and Depression)

National Institutes of Health (Depression In Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis: Description, Causes and Mechanisms)

Arthritis Foundation (Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment)

National Institutes of Health (Impact of Smoking as a Risk Factor for Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Meta-analysis of Observational Studies)

National Institutes of Health (Smoking and Rheumatoid Arthritis)

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