COPING STRATEGIES



Where to begin?

As I’m preparing to write this section about coping strategies to make life with RA easier for you I am overwhelmed with this question, where to begin?

I have decided to begin with the handshake and end the page with an invitation for you to share your own strategies with other readers.

THE HANDSHAKE

For those of us with painful hands, a simple handshake can be a terrifying experience, one that has the potential to bring us great pain.

I learned a trick that helped me a lot. In a normal handshake you present your hand out to the person you are meeting. For myself, I put my hand out with the palm facing the ground, allowing the person about to shake my hand an opportunity to see the top of my hand, and on bad days, the inflammation in the joints. It always causes the person shaking my hand to look and think before taking my hand because this is an unusual way to offer my hand.

Since using this method of handshake, I have never had anyone give me a firm handshake that would potentially bring tears to my eyes.

GETTING OTHERS TO UNDERSTAND

Since we are on the topic of dealing with others, another big issue is how other people react to someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis. There is a lack of understanding from people who don’t suffer this disease because you just don’t look any different than before you suffered or were diagnosed with RA.

The best article I have read on this can be found is called The Spoon Theory This article describes better than I ever could how difficult it is living each day with Rheumatoid Arthritis and how our day is filled with decisions on how to conserve energy to last through the day. The article was actually written about Lupus, but it relates very well. I recommend you share this story with people who care about you to enable these people to better understand the challenges you face each day.

We have to learn to be tolerant of others, understanding that, until you suffer this challenging disease, it is impossible to understand just how difficult it can be living with chronic pain, exhaustion and fear.

When we learn tolerance, then we will not be affected by the judgments of others, remembering those judgments come from ignorance.

My best lesson in this came about after I had overcome the challenges of Rheumatoid Arthritis. During my 2 ½ years when I was incapable of caring for my family and home properly due to the limitations of Rheumatoid Arthritis I found that I had very few people around me who understood and offered to help.

Years later, after I had over come the suffering from RA I had an accident that resulted in a broken ankle. I was amazed by the amount of people who came around offering to help me with anything I needed. There were people stopping by almost on a daily basis.

I came to understand that people could relate to the challenges of a broken ankle, they could SEE the challenge and relate to the difficulties.

From this experience I learned that people want to help, they just don’t understand the need is there when they can’t see it or relate to it with their own experiences. For this reason I suggest you use the The Spoon Theory , perhaps some understanding will come from understanding the choices we have to make to survive each day.

JOIN A SUPPORT CLUB

There are groups of people with RA who get together regularly; usually your Rheumatologist can direct you to a group that would be right for you.

If you prefer there are also online groups, called forums where you can go and discuss with others how they are coping or discuss what is working for them. Perhaps you might even want to join to support others, or feel like you are not alone with this disease.

DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

Housework is suddenly a challenge. Involve the entire family in accomplishing the everyday tasks.

One of the new rules in our house became, who ever cooks a meal doesn’t have to do dishes after.

This helped so much because I was limited in the amount I could stand each day. With this new rule in my house often the boys would choose to cook (when they really didn’t want to do dishes). Of course the meals they cooked weren’t always something I could eat, but that was ok because I always had a nice salad mixed in the fridge and I could survive an evening having just salad if that saved me the effort of cooking for everyone.

The laundry was a challenge and we often had piles of clean laundry, waiting to be folded. Because of this it became a LAW that if you emptied the dryer you had to match the socks immediately or you would be the one left with the huge stack of mix matched socks to sort through. The boys got so they just tossed the matched socks onto the dryer.

Basically everyone caught on to the idea that keeping the house was a family job, not optional. I had to learn to accept their help and be grateful to them, even if occassional the cleaning wasn't completed to my standards.

GROCERY SHOPPING

This can be very exhausting. Learn to shop when there will be someone home when you get there; I would do the shopping, on the way home I would call to have the family meet me at the car when I got home. We would all carry groceries in and then I would sit and direct the others on putting the food away, again saving me from being on my feet too long.

WORKING WITH RA

Working a 9 – 5 job can become very challenging, for some it becomes impossible over time.

Without the help of your family in the day to day tasks, balancing work and home life may become overwhelming. For this reason you must include your family in all the tasks that can be shared.

Weekends often become a time for rejuvenating rather than catching up on things around the home.

EXERCISE DAILY

I know it hurts to move sometimes, however the more often you move the better off you will be. There is always some type of exercise that you will be capable of. If you can’t bear weight you can go to a pool. Tai Chi is an excellent choice for some; others may need to do wheel chair activities. No matter what exercise it is that you are capable of; ensure you are doing this exercise on a regular basis.

Exercise not only keeps our muscles around the joint stronger, it also helps with emotional well being, weight and helps the body deal with stress more efficiently.

GETTING THINGS DONE

There are many aids we can purchase that will help us with the every day tasks that become difficult.

For your convenience I have found Active Forever as a reputable site to purchase these items at very competitive pricing.

Some of the items they offer include, wrist supports, specialty items for cooking, tools to assist you with dressing, kits designed to make office working easier, things to help with gardeniing, or bathing, they even offer gift certificates, perhaps an excellent choice for anyone wishing to give you the perfect gift.

MEDITATION

Meditation is an excellent way for you to relax and help your body develop a higher tolerance to the stress we live with everyday. Below is a list of benefits you can expect from meditation.

>
Personally I can say that I have experienced all of the benefits listed below from meditation.

  • Dramatic increases in the production of a whole variety of beneficial brain chemicals, including pleasure-causing endorphins—as well as a number of others proven to slow aging and increase longevity and well-being.

  • The release and falling away of dysfunctional mental and emotional patterns (such as anger, fear, anxiety, depression, sadness, substance abuse, self limitations, etc.)—even those that have stubbornly resisted other methods.

  • Increased learning ability, enhanced creativity, greater intuition, improved focus and concentration—and (even more amazing) greatly increased personal self- awareness (scientists call this combination "whole brain functioning").

  • Dramatically lower stress levels, and an increased ability to deal with whatever comes at you from the world, calmly and clearly. You become more relaxed, less anxious, more centered, more peaceful, and more connected to others.

  • Achievement becomes easier, and without the same feelings of anxiety and stress. Taking the risks necessary for success doesn't seem so scary anymore. Good things begin to just "happen" in such a way they almost seem to fall right into your lap.

  • The need for sleep decreases, yet aliveness, vitality and energy increase!

    PRACTICE BEING GRATEFUL EACH DAY

    Before you sleep each night take a moment and be grateful for everything in your life that you have to be grateful for. You may be thinking you have nothing to be grateful about, however, I ask you to consider that everything is relative and compared to some people you are very fortunate.

    If you can not understand how this will help I would like to recommend to you to watch a movie called The Secret. This act of “being grateful” is discussed in detail throughout this movie.

    LEARN TO FORGIVE OTHERS

    Forgiveness was the most difficult step for me. I first needed to learn that forgiving is not forgetting, rather it is accepting that things in life are never perfect and we can get past the things that are, or were, less than perfect.

    I used many resources to learn about forgiveness.

    The best resource for me came from a little book called The Four Agreements, excellent book I would recommend anyone read. In this book the agreements go like this.

    1) Be impeccable with Your Word. (Not only to others but especially to yourself)
    2) Don’t Take Anything Personally. (Understand that how others act is their issue, does not affect you)
    3) Don’t Make Assumptions. (Feel free to ask questions, but do not make assumptions based on your own life or experiences)
    4) Always Do Your Best. (When looking back, if you have done your best you will never feel bad, it was your best at the time)

    LEARN ABOUT HEALTH

    Certainly you should learn all about Rheumatoid Arthritis however I don’t believe you should keep your focus on the disease itself.

    If there is truth to the statement, and I believe there is, that thoughts are things, then, you would want your focus to be on health in order to recreate a healthy immune system that will lead you back to a healthy body.

    If your attention is always on Rheumatoid Arthritis then you will have a tendency to bring that into your life more and more.

    I encourage you to learn all you can about health and apply what you learn.

    One of the challenges that many of us face while we live with RA is exhaustion, physical and mental. I believe that the best defense against exhaustion is through healthy lifestyle changes, rather than medication.

    Jacqueline suffered from exhaustion for years with no help from doctors, by taking her health into her own hands she has succesfully corrected this issue and I invite you to read of her experience living with, then finally overcoming fatique


    How would you like to share your coping strategies with others?

    What if just one thing you do each day could help others, wouldn't it feel good to know you could positively affect someones life just by sharing information?

    I invite you to share with others strategies that have helped make your life easier while living with RA.

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    This information is not designed as or intended to be used as medical diagnosis or advice. Patients should consult their physicians about diagnosis and treatment.





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