Stress is one of the most common causes of inflammation. If you have an inflammatory disease like rheumatoid arthritis, chances are it will play up when your anxiety levels are unusually high.
Your joints start hurting and the pain will exacerbate the stress and the vicious cycle will continue. Unfortunately, stress is part and parcel of life. Managing it well will play a big part in minimizing the pain in your joints.
Living with chronic joint pain can take a toll physically as well as mentally. You can manage if you have some structure and techniques in place and you stick to implementing them.
Here are 7 tips to help soothe your mind and body.
Make a list
Make a list of everything that stresses you. That’s right – everything. If you’re in pain right now, most things will probably stress you out. Put them all down. The idea of this list is to have a full picture of what aggravates you and increases your pain.
Once you have it all down, you can identify your top stressors and prioritize their management. Start with one or two big ones. Once you can handle these reasonably well, you’ll find it easier to handle the rest of the items on your list.
Keep the list honest. If your kids stress you out, put that down (though you may want to use your own shorthand or code to spare hurt feelings). A solution can only be crafted if the problem is fully acknowledged.
Maintain some distance
Allow yourself some distance between you and your stressors. If your work is deadline-driven, make sure you take short breaks often. Do not feel guilty about this because these breaks will not only keep you healthy, but will also help improve the quality of your work.
If it’s never-ending text messages or calls that bother you, create a phone schedule. Set aside a couple of hours a day to answer all messages and return calls (if they’re personal ones).
Meanwhile, check your phone once every half-hour to make sure you’re not missing anything important. Attend to the important messages first and leave the rest for later. This takes discipline but your body and your mind will thank you for it.
Joint pain is chronic. Science and complementary medicine have both found ways to treat it but there is no cure yet. One of the biggest unacknowledged stressors with joint pain is that you won’t always get to do what you want. You may have planned a night out with the guys that evening, with no warning, your knee plays up. The pain exhausts you and suddenly, you’re in no mood for company.
You understand why but your friends may not. This is why it’s crucial to manage expectations of friends and family, so that they and you don’t feel like you’re letting them down.
It would be good to explain to them just how painful your joints can get. Use examples like “I can’t even make a loose fist.” Tell them that you often have no idea when the pain will strike. Describe how tiring pain can be and the effect it has on your mood. Tell them the best thing for your health at the time is rest.
None of this is for self-pity. It is simply getting people to understand what it’s like to live with chronic pain. It’s not easily understood by those fortunate enough not to have it. If you help them see your situation, they come off with a clearer picture of how it affects you and you can give yourself some rest without feeling guilty for having bailed.
Get a therapeutic massage
Sometimes known as “manual release”, with joint pain, you want someone who understands anatomy so that they can work the muscles without making your joints sore.
Try to go once a week. It does wonders for loosening your body, which in turn relaxes your mind. You’ll also get a better quality of rest in general.
Track your progress
Now that you are taking affirmative steps to keep calm and manage your joint pain, it would be useful to write notes on how you’re feeling from day to day. Score your pain 3 times a day at the beginning so you you’ll notice if when it’s at its worse.
Look at the activities at that time of day. Can you spot a relationship between the two? For example, if you have pain in your joints in the late afternoon, perhaps you’re eating the wrong foods at lunchtime.
Also think about your circumstances. Did anything happen to unnerve you and set the pain off?
Now that you’re noting down your activities and progress, look for ways in which you’ve improved. Maybe you’re feeling less stiffness in the morning. Perhaps you’re able to cook a small meal for yourself every other day instead of only occasionally.
Celebrate the small stuff. It’s the everyday things that frustrate us the most when we can’t do them. When you are able to, give yourself pat on the back, tell your friends and family and celebrate it. You’ve come this far; you have every reason to believe that you’ll get much further.
Soak in a tub
If you or a close friend has a tub, use it. Treat yourself to a nice, long soak at least once a week. It’s good for your muscles, your skin and your stress levels. Put in few drops of relaxing essential oils, light some candles, put on your favorite music and soak it all in. Let the water carry the stress and pain away. This is your time.