Happy New Year! Let’s resolve to make 2013 a healthy year with these 13 tips for living well with arthritis and rheumatic illness.
- Exercise: We know you hear it all the time, and we know that it can be frustrating and seem like a huge challenge, but light to moderate exercise, or any kind of physical activity (stretching, housework, etc.) is imperative to managing arthritis and improving mobility and joint function, as well as maintaining a healthy weight and improving your overall health.
- Diet: No matter what form of arthritis, rheumatic disease, or chronic illness you have, a healthful, nutritious diet is essential. Avoiding certain foods or adding certain foods into your diet can be a simple way to improve your wellness and even lessen your pain.
- Sleep: Though “pain-somnia” may strike at times, getting a good night’s sleep is important for your overall health and wellness. Plus, it is during sleep that your body and muscles have time to heal and repair themselves. Proper sleep also refreshes the mind and invigorates the spirit, and can lessen that pesky rheum-fatigue, too.
- Friends: A support system of family and friends is a wonderful way to cope with chronic illness. When you are in physical pain, they can lend a hand. When dealing with emotional pain, they can lend a shoulder to cry on. Surrounding yourself with supportive, positive, and uplifting people – online and in real life – is a great way to lead a fulfilling life. You are more than a “patient,” and these people can remind you of that, and will also help you to stay strong when you need to be.
- Meditation: Meditating can be good for your mental and physical health. Whether you meditate in bed, during yoga, or in the form of prayer, clearing the mind and focusing on being in the moment is a great way to forget about your pains and troubles. Some studies have shown that meditation can actually have a physical benefit, too, bettering your overall health. The sense of wellness, calmness, and mindfulness that comes with meditation can also lessen stress – and since stress sometimes causes flares, this is crucial.
- Education: Educating yourself on your condition is an ongoing process. You should never give up on seeking out information for yourself, learning about new treatment options or new developments in research, or educating yourself on new ways to manage illness or better improve your life and your health. You can also resolve to educate others and spread awareness in 2013.
- Humility: It is sometimes quite easy to let your pride get in your way. Don’t be afraid to, at times, be humble and admit that you may not be able to do it all on your own. There is no shame in asking for help. This goes for anyone, but especially rings true for those with chronic illness or a disability. While we shouldn’t let our illness or condition overtake our lives, and we should not fully lose our independence, we should realize that sometimes, we do need help….and that is okay.
- Open-mindedness: Be open-minded to treatment options and ways to manage your illness. Before you label a doctor as a quack or a write off a method or approach as nonsense, try it out. Be open to new ideas, suggestions, and tactics. It may seem “weird” at first, and it may be outside your comfort zone, but, if your doctor allows it, you should be open to thinking outside the box and doing what you can to manage your condition. After all, it is your body, and your life, and you have the right to explore all horizons when it comes to managing your health. If certain things are too “far-fetched” for you, you should still take that open-minded approach when dealing with others. We are all different. So be open to the fact that, maybe diet, acupuncture, or massage don’t work for you, but they may work for someone else. Keep an open mind that remaining positive could help – and it certainly couldn’t hurt. Keep an open mind to people who rely on pain meds, and likewise be open to those who totally eschew drugs. We’re all in it together and we need to be open-minded towards one another, and realize that a closed mind doesn’t have room to grow.
- Hope: Hang on to hope. Have a realistic attitude, but one that is nonetheless centered around hope, and the idea that things could…and will…get better. If you lose hope, what do you have left?
- Be Kind: When Ellen DeGeneres signs off from “the Ellen Show,” she always leaves the audience with one key piece of advice: “be kind to one another.” I agree. Bullying, bitterness, hatred, prejudice, competition, pettiness, snark….these are all things that the world could do without. And for those of us saddled with health problems, it is especially unfortunate when others are mean to us given all we are dealing with already. That being said: do not use your illness or disability as a reason to be mean or negative. Being sick or having health problems is no excuse to act bitter or rude towards others. It does not give you the right to have a chronic bad attitude along with your chronic illness. Arthritis hurts. So can words.
11. Comfort: Find things that make you feel more comfortable. Is it a heating pad? Ice? A warm bath with Epsom salts? A weekly massage? Acupuncture? Lumbar pillows? A memory foam mattress? Swimming? Being adjusted by a chiropractor? Using certain ointments or creams? Whatever helps you to feel more comfortable, do it. We, along with our doctors, are each responsible for finding things that work for us. Once you find something that brings you comfort – is it your favorite blanket? A good cup of tea? An ergonomic computer chair? A “Pillow Pet?” – Whatever it is, use it, do it. We all deserve comfort, even in the face of pain.
12. Focus: Focus on other things besides your ailments. What you think, you become. If you are constantly focusing on bad things, you can become consumed by them. “Thinking positively” will not make the pain, illness, or life’s problems go away, but it will help you to take your mind off of these things. Focus on being grateful for what you DO have in your life. Focus on your talents, skills, hobbies, and passions. Focus on your family, your friends, your faith. Focus on your work, or, if you don’t work, consider volunteering, thereby focusing on helping others instead of on your own problems. Focus on getting better. We can accept these illnesses as a part of our lives but they shouldn’t BECOME our lives. We are more than our diagnosis. Don’t forget to FOCUS on living your life to the fullest, despite what hurdles you may face.
13. Grow: Choose to grow in 2013. Grow your network of friends. Grow your talents. Grow your health resources. Grow your health. Expand your knowledge; expand your thinking. The world is big. There is so much to learn, and so much to love, no matter what troubles you are facing.
I hope you all have a great new year filled with health and happiness!
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