Follow these tips for a fuller, more active life with RA.
Did you have trouble getting out of bed this morning? You're not alone! Having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can leave you feeling stiff, fatigued or even downright depressed, making it challenging to do something as simple as starting your day. But don't give up hope. Here are a few ideas that may help you feel more inspired and give you back your get-up-and-go:
Tip #1: Start your day with a smile.
Something as simple as a smile can affect your day. Try it: Draw your lips together, and lift the corners into a smile. How did that feel? You might find yourself surprised by how the human body can connect a physical action with an emotional response. And if your friends and family see you looking happy, it may trigger a little more brightness in those around you.
Tip #2: Take it slow.
When you have RA, life is a balancing act. You want to be active, but not overuse aching joints or put excess stress on your body. The secret? Do everything in moderation. Use stronger joints to lift heavy things. Be smart about the number of physically demanding activities you do in one day. Rest between strenuous activities.
Tip #3: Snack smarter.
Just as a car can't run on an empty tank, your body won't have much spark if you don't fill it with nutritious food. Start by upgrading the quality of your snacks. One healthful option: Sprinkle some ground flaxseeds, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids known for their anti-inflammatory properties, into a fresh fruit smoothie.
Tip #4: Move to feel better.
It's no secret that staying fit and active can have a significant impact on both your RA and your energy level. But did you know that it takes only a small dose of exercise to feel a change in your body? Many people like to begin a new fitness routine by walking at a moderately brisk pace—even if it's for just 10 or 15 minutes.
With RA, in particular, range-of-motion exercises (like yoga and stretching) can really help keep your joints working. Swimming and aquatic exercise are also beneficial—the water's buoyancy helps support the joints and keeps movements gentle and slow.
Tip #5: Improve sleep habits.
Studies have shown that approximately one-third of people with RA experience disrupted or poor-quality sleep. If you have RA, you know how important sleep is for maintaining your health and energy.
Wind down at least one hour before you go to sleep. This could include dimming the lights, turning off the TV, taking a warm shower or bath or curling up with a book. At this time, you may also want to perform gentle, slow stretches. If you reduce pain and stiffness before you climb into bed, you're much more likely to get a good night's sleep. Ask your physical therapist or trainer to show you some tension-busting moves.
Tip #6: Watch your diet.
There's no "miracle diet" for RA, but eating certain foods and spices may help ease symptoms. For example, some doctors believe that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation. Omega-3s are commonly found in salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines and mackerel, and in plant foods such as flaxseeds and walnuts. Capsaicin (the compound that gives chili peppers their spicy flavor) has also been shown to relieve joint and muscle pain.