Is Caring for a Loved One With Rheumatoid Arthritis Making You Blue?

Although caring for a loved one with RA can be rewarding, it can also take a toll on your mood. If you’re feeling blue, these tips can help.

Diana Bierman
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If you’re caring for a loved one with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you know firsthand how hard it can be. From buttoning buttons and monitoring medications to massaging sore spots and assisting in the bath, the demands can get to you after a while. You may even start to find the joy slipping from your own life. The things you used to love—going to the movies, catching up on the phone with your best friend, getting a manicure—may seem unappealing. Getting out of bed may become harder and harder. You may start feeling blue or edgy and irritable more often than not.

If that sounds familiar, take note—you may be suffering from depression, a condition that affects 61% of caregivers offering at least 20 hours of care per week, according to the National Family Caregiving Association. But there’s no reason to suffer in silence. Talk to your primary care physician about it. He may prescribe medication and/or recommend you see a psychiatrist or psychologist. In addition, taking these steps may help lift your spirits:

Play Mozart.
When doing laundry, cooking dinner or simply sitting quietly next to your loved one, choose classical music as a backdrop. A study from the University of Oaxaca, Mexico, suggests repeated listening of classical music can help ease symtpoms of depression, possibly by elevating levels of dopamine. If you like, try the pieces the researchers used: Bach’s Italian Concerto and Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos. Find them on YouTube.

Try yoga. Striking some gentle poses can help increase levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, according to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. This is significant because low levels of GABA have been associated with depression.

Spend time with a pet.
Simply stroking a pet can boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, feel-good brain chemicals. And interacting with animals—even if it’s just watching fish swim in a tank—can help stabilize blood pressure and heart rate. No pet of your own? Spending time with a neighbor’s dog can have the same uplifting effect.

Aim to please.
Yourself, that is. An Ohio State University study found that people who set goals for themselves—and nailed them—felt better about themselves and even found more meaning in their lives. Hint: Try setting goals that allow for praise along the way. Vow to do a workout twice a week, for instance, instead of telling yourself to lose 15 pounds. Even small goals, like doing the dishes every day or getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button, can give you that sense of accomplishment, enhancing self-esteem.

Soak up the sun.
Not only is getting out of the house good for your health, but just 30 minutes of sun can lift your mood, according to University of Michigan research. Is rain in the forecast? An indoor light box that provides full-spectrum light can mimic the effects of sunshine.

April 2013