The Healthy Side of Rheumatoid Arthritis Caregiving

Tired of headline after headline about the downsides of caregiving? Keep reading. Find out why it's good for you to care for your loved one with RA. 

By
Susan Amoruso

Reduced anxiety  
Have you ever reached out to your loved one while awaiting test results? You may have been doing so to calm his or her nerves, but this act also helped take the edge off your own anxiety. Human contact is a powerful stress reducer: Researchers monitored the brain activity of women, who held the hands of a stranger, a spouse or no one, and found that hand-holding helped relax the woman’s brain, especially when husband and wife interlocked fingers.

Make it work for you:
Grab your loved one’s hand, and feel the tension melt away.

Better self-esteem
Caregivers are all too familiar with giving—giving their time, energy and, often, money to care for a loved one. And now studies show that these altruistic acts can have a positive impact on your confidence, self-esteem and overall emotional health. The caveat: You need to strike a healthy balance between giving and receiving. This means knowing when to ask for help and when to carve out respite.

Make it work for you:
When you take your loved one shopping, pick up a special something for yourself. You might buy a favorite book or some bubble bath for a relaxing soak.

Mood-boosting embraces
Here’s a new motto for caregivers: “When it doubt, hug it out!” Sometimes a sweet embrace is all it takes to make you and your loved one feel a little better. That’s because hugging has been shown to do wonders for your mood, according to a study in Psychosomatic Medicine. Couples sat close to one another and talked for 10 minutes, then shared a long hug; afterward they had a rise in oxytocin, the feel-good hormone known to reduce stress hormones and lower blood pressure.

Make it work for you: Put your caregiving duties on hold and simply snuggle up with your loved one with RA tonight. 

Published
April 2013