Coping with Receiving a Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis
Hearing those two words come from your doctor’s mouth causes many feelings in you. As soon as you receive the rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, you begin the coping process.
Consider the parallel between a loved one’s death and a medical diagnosis. Both are losses that trigger changing thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Both take time to process and resolve, with acceptance being the goal at the end of the road.
The acceptance you seek can only be had through positive coping skills. If your coping skills are overwhelmingly negative, you will have extended periods of denial, anger, depression and anxiety that continue on a steady rotation. Your mental health will decline with your physical health. You will never attain the acceptance, understanding and peace that you prize.
You want the acceptance and peace, but you have to work for it. Positive coping following a chronic medical diagnosis does not happen magically. Instead, it requires an effort that is deliberate, organized and followed with consistency. You need a plan for coping with rheumatoid arthritis. Here it is.
Minimize the Negatives
You can never reduce all the stress that is factoring into your life. With RA, you can never make symptoms disappear, but by following a few tips, you can diminish the symptoms and lower your stress. Here’s how:
- Reduce the weight. Every time you move, your muscles, bones and joints need to work. The more weight you have to move, the more work it is for your body. With RA, your joints will take the brunt of this work and feel worse. Losing weight will improve your RA symptoms as well as many other aspects of your life. If you have not been serious about losing weight before, choose now as the time to start. Some medications can trigger weight gain with rheumatoid arthritis so maintaining weight can be an appropriate goal as well.
- Don’t eat the triggers. Speaking of weight loss, cutting out a few foods could greatly improve your RA symptoms. Reducing or eliminating gluten and aspartame from your diet may prove helpful. Be sure to avoid a group of plants known as nightshades. These include potatoes, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. People report that these foods will make their symptoms worse and flare RA pain.
- Stop the smoking. You may think that smoking has little to do with RA, but the link is strong. Studies show that people who smoke are more likely to have RA, and people who keep smoking with RA have a poorer response to treatment. Interestingly enough, tobacco is another type of nightshade plant discussed above.
Obviously, quitting smoking is easier said than done. Be realistic about the role that smoking plays in your life and find practical approaches to subtract this negative. Too often people complain that the patch, the gum, the pill and other treatments did not work for them. Are setting yourself up for success or failure? Smoking is one of the hardest addictions to break, and if you do not change your habits, your smoking will not change. Treat this aspect as a matter of life or death – because it is.
Next page: treating your physical symptoms to help you cope post diagnosis.