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
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing
Our Housecall e-newsletter will keep you up-to-date on the latest health information.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Rheumatoid arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/rheumatoid-arthritis. Accessed April 15, 2020.
- Boer AC, et al. Does psychological stress in patients with clinically suspect arthralgia associate with subclinical inflammation and progression to inflammatory arthritis? Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2018; doi:10.1186/s13075-018-1587-y.
- How stress affects arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/emotional-well-being/stress-management/how-stress-affects-arthritis. Accessed April 15, 2020.
- Best stress relievers for arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/natural-therapies/best-stress-relievers-for-arthritis. Accessed April 15, 2020.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: In depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/rheumatoid-arthritis-in-depth. Accessed April 15, 2020.