It is impossible for anyone to say that staying active and getting out of the home will make your RA symptoms reduce or will make your life get any better.
What can be said, though, is that isolation always makes your symptoms worse. If you want to avoid isolation and maintain what you have, you must take action. Here’s how:
- Assess your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is not something that people usually pay attention to, but if you are reading this, you probably should. Think about the things that you have done over the past weeks. Begin to keep an activity log to track the times you left the house, the times you talk to friends and how you felt during and after doing so. How does your comfort zone look? Avoid editorializing or excusing your behaviors. Let the data speak for itself.
- Assess your mood. Once you gather data, you can begin looking for contributors. Depression is a common explanation for why people withdrawal and isolate. How has your mood been? Have there been any changes to your eating or sleeping habits? Have you been feeling worse about yourself or the people around you without good reason? Has your energy, motivation or concentration been worse than previously? Understanding the role of depression will give you better information regarding ways to fight your isolation.
- Assess your anxiety. Anxiety can exist in the presence or absence of depression so don’t count out its influence until you has evaluated it individually. Like with assessing mood, use the input from your log to compile the impact of anxiety. Have you been worrying more about many things? Do certain situations, places or things make you feel panicky? Do you have a hard time turning off your mind to sleep at night? Do you feel tired and fatigued because your body is so tense and rigid? If yes, anxiety might be a factor in your isolation. In fact, there is a specific type of anxiety disorder called agoraphobia when you are fearful of leaving the house. Doing so typically results in a panic attack. If this is the case, consult with a mental health professional immediately.
- Restart old activities. Assessing the contributors is always a valuable task because it allows you to gain an acceptance of what you are combating. In the case of isolation, there must be behavioral change. Knowing why you are isolating is crucial, but it is only the first step. What did you enjoy before isolation was a part of your life? Where did you go and with whom did you spend time? Where were you on a typical Saturday night? Find ways to motivate yourself into retrying these previously enjoyable activities. With luck, you will slide back into good habits and reap the benefits immediately. Remember, doing nothing ensures that your comfort zone continues to shrink as depression and anxiety rise.
- Find new ones. Do not give up hope if the former activities do not bring back the same level of enjoyment as they once did. After all, you are a different person now than you were back then. You are older, wiser, and have new interests and limitations. Needless to say, there is an infinite amount of places to go and things to do. Stop the self-defeating cycle of listing reasons and excuses to continue your withdrawal. Go and do. Even if the pain is uncomfortable, it is manageable compared to the psychological discomfort isolation brings. Still feeling stuck? Consider this list of 176 pleasurable activities. Surely, you can find a few that pique your interest.
- Bring in the professionals. You are never “too far gone” but you may find yourself too isolated due to depression and anxiety to help yourself effectively. In situations like this, mental health professionals can do amazing work to end the isolation and reintegrate your into society. The great thing about mental health treatment is that you get the beneficial information from the appointment that can be used to lessen the negative influence of depression, anxiety and RA, but you also receive good reasons to leave the home. Weekly appointments help to build consistency and structure to your life. If isolation is problematic enough, may mental health providers have services that can come to your home to assist in getting back into the world.
Being alone is never the best option. People need other people and experiences to challenge and push them into being better versions of themselves. Spending all of your time in your home does not allow you gain from others, and it does not allow others to gain from you. When you choose to give, you choose to gain.