How does stress affect my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and what can I do about it?

Reducing stress in your daily life is an important part of self-care because research suggests that stress can lead to an increase in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Practicing one or two of the following simple techniques can help lower your stress and help keep rheumatoid arthritis pain, stiffness and fatigue at bay:

  • Breathe. Sit in a quiet room, close your eyes and take some very slow deep breaths. Silently repeat positive words, such as "peace" and "calm," as you breathe in and out. Once you're settled, imagine yourself relaxing in a beautiful place. Draw a picture in your mind of how it looks, feels, smells and sounds. Then spend the next few minutes on a private vacation.
  • Move around. Even light physical activity such as taking a walk can help relieve stress by reducing pain and improving your sleep. Gentle yoga and tai chi also are great ways to lower stress by connecting slow, flowing movement with deep breathing.
  • Share. Find a good listener and tell that person about the things that cause you stress or worry. You may find it helpful to join a support group for people living with arthritis. Some people find a creative outlet helps relieve their stress, such as writing in a journal, painting, making pottery or doing needlework.
  • Prioritize. Take a moment each morning or at night before you fall asleep to think through your to-do list. What really has to get done? Do you have to do it yourself or can you ask someone else to handle it?

Talk to your doctor if you are feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety or if you'd like more ideas on ways to manage stress in your daily life.

Sept. 15, 2020 See more Expert Answers

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