Consider Other Alternatives
There are many alternative therapies that may also be useful in treating anxiety and depression. Acupuncture or massage may have an impact on both physical and emotional symptoms. Meditation, mindfulness, and other relaxation techniques can also be useful.
Writing about your feelings may also be helpful — I chose to write about my feelings in a blog, but you could also write in a private journal. Even just getting some fresh air and sunshine may help rejuvenate you.
No one should have to endure RA, depression, or anxiety alone — particularly since feeling isolated can trigger or worsen that vicious cycle. I find that one of the most effective ways to endure the emotional impacts of life with RA is to talk to other RA patients.
Whether you join an in-person support group or connect with other patients through online platforms like this one, interacting with people who truly understand what you are going through can be invaluable.
Whatever you choose to do to address your depression or anxiety, the important thing is that you address it. The truth is that caring for your mental health is a fundamental aspect of managing your RA symptoms and your overall health.
Counselor Eric’s Guide to RA and Depression
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic medical condition that takes its toll on a person’s physical health. Pain and stiffness limit your daily functioning. You skip the activities and events you used to enjoy because attending is not a pleasurable experience. Fatigue zaps your energy and motivation. Now, lying on the couch is all you have the energy to do. Your exercise regime is nonexistent and the medications you’re using are increasing your weight. You nap during the day and get poor sleep at night, never feeling really rested. Each day is physically challenging.
Regrettably, the challenge overlaps with your mental health. You will notice the symptoms; isolation, lack of energy, lack of interest in pleasurable activities, poor sleep and weight gain. Do these sound familiar? These are all symptoms of depression; it is easy to understand why people with RA have higher rates of depression than the general population. Physical consequences trigger low moods and feelings of helplessness.
RA and Depression Busters
You are up against a formidable opponent with RA, but there are answers to managing your mental health. Here are some mood-boosting tips:
- Accept and acknowledge – Before you can get better you need to accept your medical situation. Check out information on RA and understand your limitations. Expecting your life to go on unchanged is, sadly, unrealistic. Don’t try to fool yourself. Once you accept your state you can begin to move forward. Be aware that some level of sadness is expected. Have no fear, though; this is a healthy part of the grieving process.
- Modify – Life has changed and your expectations of yourself need to change as well. You may not be able to cook a holiday dinner by yourself anymore. You may not be able to plant a grand garden in the spring. Instead of focusing on such losses, consider some measures to modify your life for success. Asking family and friends to bring the side dishes to dinner and planting a smaller garden will yield the same benefits with less stress. Modifying your life will maintain your motivation and interests in other activities.
- Fun – There is no better depression buster than good old-fashioned fun. With RA, like other chronic medical conditions, people become focused on symptoms rather than solutions. It is far easier for you to add positives to your life than to remove the negatives. It is common that your former leisure activities are no longer an option. Don’t give up! Seek fun out and the benefits will be worth the effort.
- Supports – With more stress, you will need more support. You should not have to care for yourself alone. Others in your life will happily help because they love you and want what’s best for you. Be willing to accept help.
- Therapy – Seeking mental health treatment is always a good idea when confronted with a significant change in your lifestyle or you notice changes in your mood or energy levels.
When it comes to RA and depression, the worst thing to do is nothing. The tips in this article work well to repair damage that has already been done, but they work best as prevention. Do not wait until symptoms present themselves. Be active and anticipate issues before they come.