Best Gifts for Rheumatoid Arthritis 2020 Edition

This post contains affiliate links. If you use them, I may get a commission. Thank you!

If you have a loved one with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), you have probably noticed that it comes with its own set of challenges. Aching joints, exhaustion, and physical limitations are likely to rule their lives. Give them the gift of relief this year! We polled 100’s of RA patients to find out what they wish for. Here’s what they asked for! From gifts to keep them warm and toasty to gadgets that will help them get things done, our readers had a ton of great ideas! Read on to find out what your arthritic loved one would be overjoyed to unwrap this year!

Topping the wishlist this year, and hitting this writer right in the feels, the number one requested gift in 2020, by a landslide, is time with the ones they love! The prolonged isolation from grandchildren, adult children, parents, friends, and all of their people has taken a toll. Holiday traditions have taken a hard hit. The result? What they’d like most of all is the magical gift of your presence.

Since the….let’s just call it 2020 chaos, shows no sign of slowing before year’s end, and many RA patients take immune suppressing medications that leave them vulnerable to that which shall not be named (look I am willing to try anything to weaken it’s power at this point), they understand that an in person visit might not be possible. That said, it’s still at the top of the list, so consider how you can be there (safely) for them.

Consider planning a visit if at all possible. The love you share and the memories you make will be well worth the time and effort it takes to make that happen, even if you have to spend 2 weeks hunkered down at home first to be sure you’re not contagious. If that’s not possible, consider ways you can visit from a distance; video call, write letters, have food delivered and have dinner “together” online, plan a virtual family game night. You may have to get creative to create the “togetherness” they are yearning for.

If you can’t be there, because realistically that is going to be the case for a great many people, consider sending your loved one the gift of warmth. While not quite as lovely as a hug, rheumatoid patients agreed the thing they wanted most was a heated wrap, bonus points if it is portable!

Beautyrest Ultra Soft Sherpa Berber Fleece Electric Poncho Wrap Blanket Heated Throw with Auto Shutoff, 50″ W x 64″ L, Tan Plaid

Knowing that nothing ticks arthritis off more than getting “chilled to the bone” in chilly winter weather, there were many other wonderful gifts on their wishlist to keep them warm, including these cozy heated gloves, heated socks, or a nice heated carseat cover.

To help soothe chilled bones at home they asked for electric blankets and heating pads, or how about this amazing portable sauna? (Yes please!) Basically, if it makes heat to make you warm and cozy, it’s a great gift for all of the arthritis sufferers on your list.

Considering their obvious love of all things warm and cozy, it is not at all surprising that the next most frequently asked for gifts included a pile of warm and cozy socks and slippers. Leaning into the 2020 lougewear trend, leggings and pj’s were also at the top of their list.

For those increasingly rare times they need to leave the house, RA patients asked for warm gloves and mittens and comfortable shoes like these Clarks CloudSteppers, hands down my personal favorite shoe, I like them so much I have them in three different colors.

If your loved one struggles with bulky winter coats, consider a nice warm poncho, for ease of wear. It is essentially like wearing a blanket, and as we already know, they LOVE blankets!

Speaking of things they love to wear, consider picking them up some compression gloves, knee sleeves, or other compression gear. Whatever body part they have that could use a little extra love and support, there is probably compression wear for that.

Chronic pain being one of the primary symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, anything that will offer them a bit of relief would be greatly appreciated. The remedies that RA patients swear by include many mentholated creams, like Biofreeze. The most frequently asked for topical remedies were CBD oils and creams. Other great gift options for pain relief included bath soaks like this delightful mango soak from Scentsy or Dr Teal’s epsom salts.

To chase away the pain, those surveyed also asked for hand and foot massagers, massaging chairs, and therapy balls. Want to really make their day? A gift certificate for a massage is sure to bring them comfort and let them know you want them to feel their best.

Looking to really wow them? The dream gift among those surveyed was a hot tub! Hot tub a little out of your budget? How about a nice hand spa or foot bath instead?

Life with RA often involves a good deal of struggle with getting the little things done. Pain, inflammation, and changes in joint structure can make the simplest things a big challenge. Gadgets that can help to make those things easier will be greatly appreciated.

At the top of that wishlist were electric can openers and jar openers. I love this jar opener so much I bought a second one to keep at my Mom’s so I don’t need to ask for help there either. Other great kitchen gadgets include electric pepper mills, a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and this amazing Rotato peeler!

For help outside of the kitchen, a lifting seat or recliner would be a great gift for your loved one who finds getting up to be a struggle. Other wonderfully helpful tools include chunky ergonomic pens, lever doorknobs, and this cool pen mouse.

Since we started out our list talking about how isolated your vulnerable loved ones are feeling this holiday season, it seems fitting to wrap up our gift guide with a list of things to help them stay entertained at home. Topping that list were gadgets that make reading easier on the hands like the Kindle Paperwhite, this amazing bookstand, and these adorable page holders. Consider keepiong those readers entertained with a subscription for a magazine, audiobook, or book of the month club.

Other great suggestions include gifts to pamper them through the long months ahead. Perhaps they would enjoy a selection of delicious teas/coffees, there are even subscription services for that. Think about the things they enjoy, you’ll likely find someone, somewhere who offers a monthly subscription box. Not sure what they would like? How about a Spoonie Box Subscription? Loaded with goodies for chronic illness fighters, it is sure to be a big hit month after month.

While the 2020 chaos might change everything, including your traditions, this year, that doesn’t mean we cannot show our isolated loved ones how very much we appreciate and care for them. A little creativity and extra effort is sure to go a long way. May your days be merry and bright and may all your test results be negative. Happy Holidays from the TenaciousME family.

What Your Loved One With Rheumatoid Arthritis Wants You To Know

One of the most frequent troubles Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients struggle with is being understood.  If you don’t have RA, it is a little hard to imagine what it is like.  The morning stiffness that sometimes sticks around all day.  The painful swollen joints, the deep fatigue, the stress of finding treatments that work and the load of side effects that often come along with treatment, make for a complex life.  A life that is often also lonely as mobility becomes a challenge.  Loneliness that is even deeper when friends and loved ones do not understand what they are dealing with. We polled hundreds of rheumatoid arthritis patients to find out what they wish their loved ones understood about RA.  Here are a few things your loved one with Rheumatoid Arthritis wants you to know.

It isn’t arthritis

A common misconception due to the name and a general lack of knowledge about the disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis is much more than arthritis.  While stiff joints, joint pain, and joint deformities are indeed a big part of how RA shows its teeth, that is far from the only area this autoimmune disease impacts. 

RA is a systemic disease; this means that it attacks the entire body.  Heart and lung tissue, tendons, eyes, vocal cords and muscles are also on the possible hit list for RA.  It brings with it increased risk of cardiovascular disease, lung disease, various forms of cancer, wasting sickness, blindness and so much more.  Unchecked, Rheumatoid Arthritis is deadly. 

Managed, it is still chronic.  The most common and persistent symptoms of disease activity are pain, stiffness, fatigue, depression, and brain fog.

Treating RA is complex, frustrating, and frightening

Fighting a chronic, debilitating disease like RA can sometimes feel like a full-time job.  Medical appointments, treatments, diet and exercise regimens to keep the disease in check often dominate the lives of patients.  Because even among professionals, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the scope of the disease, patients often have to fight for the medical care they need.  Successful management takes a team of professionals including rheumatologists, orthopedic doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, psychiatrists, and various other sorts of doctors when heart, lung, eyes etc. become impacted. 

Medical treatments involve medications that shut down various immune reactions, leaving patients vulnerable to a host of issues.  (If your loved one with RA cringes when someone in the room sneezes, this is why!) Frequent battles with infections and microbes are par for the course. 

The possible list of side effects on these medications include increased risk of cancer, nerve damage, liver failure, kidney failure, hair loss, fatigue, blood sugar abnormalities and even destruction of bones.  Treating the disease often feels as dangerous as letting it do what it will.  Patients are forced to choose which side effects and symptoms they can live with, and to hope none of the ones they ignore kill them in the end. 

There is no one treatment that works for all.  It is all a process of trial and error.  Unlike many of the symptoms humans commonly face, there is nothing that eliminates symptoms for everyone.  Every body responds differently to treatment.  It quickly starts to feel like a game of medical roulette, will this help, or will it destroy a vital organ?  Only time and trial will tell. 

There is no one treatment that works for all.

This medical mystery and frustration is doubled when faced with those who, with the best of intentions, fill them with false promises of miracle cures.  The fact is,

There is no cure

Knowing all the dangers associated with active RA, you’ve likely poked around online, talked to friends, maybe even health professionals, about how your loved one could feel better and be safer.  Probably more than a few have suggested diet, exercise, herbs, various medications and supplements, all with promises to cure Rheumatoid Arthritis. 

Something that you really need to understand and come to terms with is THERE IS NO CURE.  This disease is chronic, it is not going anywhere.  While it is true that many of the recommendations will make life with Rheumatoid Arthritis and disease management easier (If you consider restrictive diets and piles of supplements easy), none of those things will ever cure RA. 

Once it is activated, there is no stopping it.  The best any medical treatment or natural approach is likely to do is slow it down.  In a small percentage of patients, times of “remission” may occur.  Some are even able to stop medications and continue to be in remission. These cases are few and far between, and so far, none have lasted. RA always flares up eventually.  Even on the most restrictive diets.  Even when you do yoga daily.  Even on medications with terrifying side effects. 

So, while they appreciate that you want to help them feel better, please keep that miracle cure to yourself.  They have heard it all before, they have probably tried it all.  They are doing their best to manage their disease.  What they need from you is understanding and support, leave the miracle cures to strangers on the internet. Trust me, they will get that little tidbit somewhere, and they won’t be annoyed with you for suggesting kale can cure RA. 

They want to be able to do it all, they just can’t

Probably most important thing for you to know is that they are still the same person they were before RA came calling.  They have the same dreams and desires, love the same activities, and truly want to live the life they lived before diagnosis.  Sadly, quite often that life quickly becomes out of reach as managing RA and all the physical challenges it brings, forces them to change their lives. 

They don’t have the same stamina, the pain wears them out, their bodies don’t function like they used to.  Its more than pain, its debilitating muscle weakness, exhaustion, and remodeling joints.  Whenever you feel annoyed that your bestie just can’t now, imagine how badly she feels about that. 

Imagine you woke up tomorrow barely able to shower and dress yourself.  Still think they need to just suck it up and go out with you anyway?  Imagine you also woke up to find out you’d been injured by a hit and run driver in the night.  That is life with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

What they can do today, they might not be able to do tomorrow (and it frustrates them more than you)

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of managing autoimmune diseases like RA is the way symptoms can change so much from one day to the next, or one end of the day to the other.  Pain and inflammation flares and calms in sometimes completely unpredictable cycles.  A knee that works perfectly in the morning may be stiff and useless by afternoon. 

To an outsider, not living in a body that can now and truly can’t later, it is hard to imagine why rheumatoid patients cancel plans when they do.  Yesterday you saw them at the gym, and they were fine, it is easy to understand why you find their claims that they can’t walk today suspect.  But this is the reality of life with RA. 

When they say they can’t, they mean it.  Believe them and try to be sympathetic.  They wanted to join you, they really did plan to enjoy that day out, but they are not in control of when they can and when they can’t.  They live their lives at the mercy of unpredictable bodies.

The fact is, cancelling plans disappoints them more than it disappoints you.  They do it all the time and its never because they don’t want to leave the house.  They have cancelled dinners, dates, shopping plans, medical appointments, days of work, showers, projects they wanted to do. The list of times they have felt the guilt of cancelling because they woke up in a flare are endless.  It makes them feel weak and useless. They never feel as though they are in control.  It is unimaginably frustrating.  Let them know you understand their frustration, be disappointed alongside them, not disappointed in them.  They have the self-disappointment covered. 

Everything is more challenging than it used to be

It is hard to imagine life with RA unless you’ve lived it.  A systemic disease, it impacts every aspect of life.  Unlike the more common Osteoarthritis that comes with wear and tear as we age, RA can impact even the least used joints in the body. Joints you don’t even probably realize are joints. 

It does so in a very chaotic manner.  There is no real rhyme or reason to what it hits and when it hits.  Inflammation can pop up at any time, leaving joints swollen, hot to the touch, stiff, and painful.  Anywhere in the body.  From jaw hinges to the tiniest of toe joints, any body part can suddenly become useless and painful to attempt to move.  This causes every aspect of life to become a challenge. 

From brushing your teeth to walking out the door each day, you move a surprising number of joints.  Imagine if each of them felt as though they were welded shut.  If you’d like to see what that is like, take a long rope, wrap it around your dominant hand so it cannot open all the way, now, wrap it around your elbow, then secure it to your waist.  Be sure not to leave enough slack to raise your arm.  Now, go ahead and get washed and dressed.  Did I mention that you also cannot reach your feet today?  Hope you have slide on shoes and don’t mind going without socks, otherwise you better leave 30 minutes to figure out how to get those feet dressed.  If you had RA, all those restrictions would also be punctuated by pain. 

Since we are getting dressed, let’s take a look in that closet for a minute.  Remove every item with buttons or snaps.  Hands ravaged by RA, the number one symptom of the disease, cannot manage buttons and other fine motor tasks.  Many an RA patient has made the mistake of struggling to button their pants only to find themselves unable to unbutton them at the crucial moment.  Yes, sometimes we pee ourselves, trapped in pants we cannot undo.  There is nothing much more humbling than being trapped in pee soaked pants.  So, let’s just remove those from the wardrobe.  Also, remove anything with a small zipper pull, also a fine motor skill, zippers are another great way to become trapped in your own clothing.

Next, let’s take a good long look at that collection of shoes.  Remove anything that ties, you can’t reach the laces.  Heals are a no, your toes won’t tolerate a heal of any height, toss those to the side.  Because your feet are going to swell, and may already be changing shape, also get rid of anything with a narrow toe, pointed toe, or slim instep, you’ll never get them on.  How’s the shoe collection looking now?  If you’re anything like I was when diagnosed, you’re down to a couple of pairs of clunky slip on shoes.  Did I mention you’re attending a wedding this afternoon?  Fantastic. 

Speaking of weddings, let’s move on to accessories.  See that collection of pretty hair ties, barrettes, clips and other things to add a little flair to your hair?  In the bin it goes.  Don’t worry, the hair will go soon enough, either because it is falling out (a symptom of RA and also a side effect of many RA medications) or because you can’t brush and wash it so you’ll get it cut short and manageable.  Speaking of manageable, that jewelry box full of necklaces and bracelets with tiny clasps?  Save it for your grand kids, give it to goodwill, you can’t put it on.  Same for rings, with fingers that swell when they want to, rings are another great way to get stuck.  If you don’t want to have it cut off later, leave it in the box. 

At this point, you likely have a massive pile of things you can’t use anymore.  Among them, likely some of your favorite things.  Frustrated and sad?  Welcome to life with RA.  That was only what changed in the area of personal care.  Notice we never even entered the kitchen or approached any household tasks. 

It turns out, life with RA is full of obstacles. Literally every aspect of life is more of a challenge and many things are simply impossible without some sort of adaptive device.  The world is full of doorknobs that can’t be turned, bottles and packaging that can’t be opened, stairs that make knees groan, the list is endless, obstacles are everywhere.   And chances are…

They hate asking for help

Now that you’ve taken a walk in their clunky slide on shoes, you probably realize there are many times they are going to need help.  So many, in fact, that chances are, they are not going to ask every time they need it.  If they are stubborn and independent, they won’t ask for help a fraction of the time they need it.  They also might not be inclined to let you help.  Even on my worst day, I am not interested in help dressing myself.  It feels too personal, too much like something a toddler could do, in short, it makes me feel incapable. 

They don’t want to feel incapable.  They do need help.  Offers of help from you, really make their lives easier and make them feel loved and seen.  It may be no big deal to you to bend over and pick up those dirty clothes they’ve been staring at all afternoon, to join them in the kitchen and offer to cut the veggies, to offer to help put on that necklace that makes their eyes sparkle.  To your loved one with RA, those offers of help are offers of love.  They are understanding and empathy.  They appreciate them more than you will ever know.  It may sometimes be hard to tell because

Pain rules their world and sometimes their attitudes

There is really nothing that alters someone’s sunny attitude like chronic pain.  It is hard to be positive when you hurt literally all of the time.  When all you want is a break from the constant ache of your inflamed body.  It is not at all uncommon for chronic pain sufferers to lash out, become depressed, or both.

On days when pain is more intense, this can become particularly troublesome as your loved one becomes their least lovable self.  Try to be patient and understanding.  Know that what appears to be anger and frustration with you is actually anger and frustration at their own body.  Possibly at themselves, as they beat themselves up for that sugary treat they ate yesterday, the exercise they aren’t getting and all the other little ways they might be contributing to the symptom flare. 

Know that what appears to be anger and frustration with you is actually anger and frustration at their own body.

The truth is, it might be something they did, or it might not.  Maybe it was that slice of cake that tipped the scale from a daily pain level of 4 to a holy shit, can we just cut my hand off now 9.  Maybe it’s the weather, maybe they did too much yesterday, not enough, slept wrong, didn’t sleep.  Possible triggers are everywhere, they don’t understand why they hurt, it is incredibly frustrating.

It’s also exhausting.  Imagine walking around with the flu all the time.  Body aches, exhaustion, brain fog, these are the most frequent and pervasive symptoms of RA.  Sleeplessness due to pain and restlessness brought on by medication side effects are also a factor, as the more tired people are, the less tolerant they are of all life’s challenges. 

Even good days are full of pain.  It is the most persistent symptom your loved one with RA lives with.  And no, Aleve doesn’t touch it.  Narcotics don’t even touch it most days, not that those are an option for chronic pain sufferers, the dangers of long-term use are too high.  They’re left to fight the pain with various over the counter remedies.  They learn to live life in pain, to push through days and nights, hoping tomorrow will be better, as they toss and turn on a sea of pain.  It is exhausting and undoubtedly increases the other most persistent RA symptom, fatigue.

Fatigue is more than feeling tired

Like chronic pain, chronic fatigue is a bit hard to imagine unless you have experienced it.  I used to think it meant you felt tired a lot.  I didn’t understand just how exhausted a person could feel until Rheumatoid Arthritis really reared its head.  I still find it very challenging to put into words.  Imagine you wake up underwater, but able to breath.  Every movement feels as though you are dragging yourself through water or better yet, maybe it’s a good thick syrup.  You also feel vaguely drugged, like waking up from anesthesia.  You’re awake, but definitely not firing on all cylinders.  If you’ve ever battled the all-consuming sleeplessness of caring for a sick newborn, imagine that had been 6 babies, and you were all alone, for weeks, that’s fatigue! 

Exhaustion, brain fog, memory lapse, an inability to string thoughts into coherent sentences, all aspects of fatigue from RA.  It can occur with or without proper sleep.  You can sleep 10 hours a day and still feel fatigue.  A kind of exhaustion that is unrelated to how much rest you get, there is little your loved one can do but hold on and wait for it to pass.  While taking a nap might help a bit, they will undoubtedly wake up as tired as they are when they lay down.  It’s a symptom that will go when it is ready and come back when it pleases.  It is one of the more frustrating challenges RA brings to the table.

The thing they need most from you is understanding

With a life filled with challenges, fatigue, pain, insomnia, and frustration it is easy to see that what your loved one needs most from you is understanding.  They are juggling a rather heavy load, they often have to drop the ball to keep moving ahead, be okay with that.  Pick up those dropped balls when you can. 

Watch for the things they really struggle with, offer to take them off their plate, or, better yet, surprise them by getting it done while they take a much-needed nap.  Encourage them on the hard days.  Take time to appreciate the things they accomplish and celebrate the good days with them.  Be a sympathetic ear they can turn to when the days are harder.  They often feel alone in this disease, be the one they can turn to for understanding. 

Learning to Lean-How Adaptive Aids Improved My Life

I used to look at adaptive equipment and see it as a flashing neon sign, complete with an arrow pointing at the user (me), “This person is weak” the sign flashed, “can’t do normal things” it sometimes proclaimed.  I avoided using tools made to help ease the stress of daily life. After all, those arthritis aids were for people who couldn’t and I could (kinda, with a lot of struggle, okay and maybe occasional tears) but I wasn’t so bad off that I really needed assistive devices, or so I thought.  I thought I was fighting to remain independent.  It turns out I was just fighting the use of tools that would make tasks simpler for me.  Yep, that’s me alright, stubbornly chopping down the trees with a hatchet because I can’t have people seeing me use a chainsaw.  The irony?  Before diagnosis, I would not hesitate to pick up a tool to make a job simpler.  In fact, my creative use of tools was always one of the things I was most proud of, Yankee ingenuity is in my blood.  So why the tool avoidance after diagnosis?  It turns out, I was more afraid of appearances and the labels they bring than I am stubbornly independent.  (Even I was surprised by that one!)

The result of my stubborn tool avoidance?  Struggle, giving up, and more tears than this stoic Maine girl is used to shedding.  After a few weepy pity parties over the things I couldn’t manage and a complete breakdown involving a water bottle which may still to this day live under the bush I hucked it at, I began to realize I did have a choice.  To struggle or to get help.  Finally starting to come to terms with the limitations RA had been putting on my body, I began to consider how I could work around them.  That acceptance, that RA was hampering my ability to do, was essential.  It turns out it is essential to every part of the RA journey, but that is a much longer story.  My first assistive device purchase?  A bottle opener, if you have ever lost your shit over an inability to get a drink of water, you know why that was my first toe dip into the world of arthritis tools. 

Cut to a few years later and my house is loaded with handy little things that make my life less of a struggle.  Bottle openers, dressing sticks, shoehorns, various electric kitchen gadgets, scissors and a whole slew of other helpful aids now live in my home making it safer and more accessible for me, and surprise, giving me more independence.  Most of those tools were picked up willingly, some even came with some excitement as I knew they would make me more able.  In the fight against disabling disease, that is priceless.  Giving myself permission to make that fight easier, shifted things in a small but crucial way. 

Click here for your Free Printable Symptom Journal

That is not to say it just shifted all at once and I was able to seamlessly accept all sorts of helpful tools.  Quite the opposite.  Each set of tools purchased followed an acceptance of their necessity, my need to do.  This meant accepting the need for help over and over.  If you have followed me long, you may know my stubborn independent nature made that tougher than it probably needed to be.  It certainly did when it was time to pick up a cane and eventually a walker. 

Some lessons only sink in if we repeat them over and over, accepting help is one of mine.  Coming to terms with the fact that my legs were no longer interested in their supportive role, and unable to submit to a life on the couch, eventually led me to accept the need for a cane to help me hobble along.  As something I would need outside of the house, making my struggle visible to the outside world, that was not such a simple tool to pick up.  In fact, it took extreme need and a moment of desperation for that to happen for the first time. It took a loved one landing in the ICU in critical condition when I had been barely able to walk for a week for me to chose to pick up the cane my doctors had suggested I might find helpful.  In the battle between able to get to his side and unable to be there, there was no contest, I had to figure it out, so we stopped and got my first cane on the way. 

Since that desperate day, I have made a pact with myself, never let it get that hard before accepting help.  Whether that be the assistance of a loved one, or some handy gadget or piece of adaptive equipment, taking help when it is needed, opens life with a disease that often shuts doors to us.  It gives us freedom and independence, and perhaps most importantly, it saves our energy for the things we wish to do.  Living in a body that can turn the simplest tasks into a struggle, that is a priceless resource.

What handy tools for life with RA can you not do without?  Keep an eye out for our upcoming guide, Handy Arthritis Tools That Reduce The Struggle.

Want to help support TenaciousME? Click the button to donate today!

Stress and Chronic Illness

In a world where things are anything but simple, with a body that is anything but well behaved, its no surprise that stress plays a big part in the lives of most people with autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis. Between juggling responsibilities and fighting your own body to accomplish them, the stress can easily reach overwhelming levels. Add in a little worrying about the future with said disease, and some guilt about the tings you aren’t nailing, and its no surprise that many autoimmune patients feel stressed. Realizing stress also increases the activity of such diseases, it’s easy to see how that could quickly become a problem.

Learning that stress is one of the most frequent triggers of autoimmune symptoms is a bit like being told breathing makes your symptoms flare-up. Stress is an inevitable part of life, especially for those with chronic disease. Let’s face it as much as you might like to, you can’t simply eliminate all stress from your life. I mean you can certainly try hiding in your blanket fort and coloring all day between snacks and naps but, eventually you will undoubtedly have to face the reality of your life and deal with the things that stress you out. That is the bad news. The good news is stress management can and should include naps, snacks, and even some time alone in the blanket fort if that is what floats your boat.

While we can’t eliminate all of the things (or people) that stress us out, it is still important to consider letting go of some of the ones you can be done with. If something or someone is constantly causing you stress, consider the ways you might be able to step away from that. Changing jobs, downsizing to a more affordable house/car, taking the time to enjoy life, can all decrease the amount of stress your body is dealing with. Less stress means less disease activity. If you live with chronic illness you already know, less disease activity is the golden ticket.

Because stress feeds disease activity, flipping the stress feedback loop from negative to positive can make a huge difference in the way you feel, which in turn impacts the way you cope with pretty much everything in your life. So, how do we flip the script on stress? The answer is good stress management. While what that looks like will vary a bit from person to person there are a few tried and true keys to successful stress management, and wouldn’t you know it, they are exactly the same as the keys to managing chronic disease!

Sleep

The number one most frequent recommendation for health and healing, it is no surprise that getting a good night of rest is one of the keys to good stress management. If you have ever been faced with an extremely stressful situation on not enough sleep, you’ve probably already guessed, sleep mitigates the level of stress hormones in our body, resulting in better function when we are rested. When stress hormones have had the chance to do their thing while we rest, our reaction to stress is more controlled. If you’ve ever lost it over a missing shoe after being up with the baby all night, that was stress hormones. The unbalanced scale tipped because of the lack of sleep, not the search for the shoe.

Exercise

The second most recommended key to healthy stress management is perhaps a bit tricky for many chronic illness sufferers. After all, for many of us exercise aggravates existing conditions. That said, lovingly moving your body is also one of the keys to continued mobility as well as a great way to keep your stress in check. It is also a healthy way to react to the body dumping stress hormones in, no bears in your woods to run from no problem, use the hormone spike to run for fun. Unless running hurts or is a no for your particular condition, then perhaps consider getting the blood and hormones cycling through in a gentler way, say with a brisk walk, a swim, or some time on a recumbent bike. (Never run from a real bear, one should only run from metaphorical bears.)

Nutrition

The third key we are diving into for stress management is nutrition. The saying you are what you eat is, unfortunately true. What goes into your body will have a huge impact on how that body behaves. Everything from our weight to our sleep patterns and our ability to manage stress are impacted by the foods and beverages we choose to consume. If you are living on sugar and caffeine and your stress is through the roof, know that your choices are fueling the stress fire. Our bodies need nutrients to make the systems work properly. Without getting into a bunch of complex chemistry, its enough to understand that every action your body takes from beating your heart to moving water into and out of your excretory system requires the movement/binding/presence of specific molecules. If the things your body needs are not being provided it will either fail to complete that process, or more often, get creative with what it has. This can lead to depleted resources and a poorly running system. A poorly running system will give everything it has to the life continuing aspects of your body, keeping that heart beating and lungs working, after that it is all about prioritization. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I’m never sure) our bodies can function pretty well with unbalanced stress hormones on board, making it a non essential fire to put out as far as the brain is concerned. In fact, if things in the body are particularly critical, the stress response may be considered just another alarm to a brain trying desperately to please its cohabitants with whatever can be extracted from Doritos and lattes.

Healthy Relationships

Something I believe should be on every list for healthier living, healthy relationships with the people we choose to spend our time with are essential to stress management and our overall happiness in life. If you are hanging around with people who drive you crazy, stress is inevitable. Spending more time with the people who allow you to get out of that head space and enjoy moments will always leave us in better spirits, and with measurably lower stress levels. Focusing on building those positive relationships and letting go of or limiting your exposure to the ones who drag you down will find you in much better shape stress-wise, and you will also be building the right kind of tribe to get you through life in good company. Essential for everyone, perhaps doubly if you are living with a chronic illness or two.

Talk It Out

Let’s face it, sometimes all the stress management practices in the world cannot outweigh the very real weight of a stress filled life. Especially when the things we are going through feel too big to handle. You may have caught on by now but that old saying ‘that that doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger’ is a crock of shit. Plenty of things leave us standing but worse for wear. Shattered yet functional. While it certainly takes strength to carry on living a normal looking life when you feel like you are barely hanging in there, it definitely isn’t building you up. Don’t allow life to drag you under all that stressful reality. Find someone who you can share those burdens with. Everything gets smaller if you get it out of your head. Rather it takes the form of a therapist or weekly coffee with a trusted friend, we all need someone to share the heavy stuff with. A judgement free zone of understanding and acceptance of us right where we are, can be exactly what we need to gain the perspective to move beyond something that has us trapped in flight or fight mode. Reaching out to people who have been there and done that? Absolutely priceless.

Relaxation

The final key to stress management, and probably the most obvious, is taking time to relax. When life is running you over with stress this idea may seem impossible, laughable even, but it is also essential. Finding time to do the things that bring you calm in the middle of a stressful situation can bring clarity and calm,which lead to clearer thinking and better decision making, and perhaps less stress down the road. Taking time to relax when you are not trying to put out a fire, is even more beneficial. In a relaxed state our bodies function more efficiently. Our heart rate and respiration rate drop, muscles release tension, and everything from brain function to digestive processes run more smoothly.

While yoga and meditation are probably the things most often thought of for relaxation, there are a wide variety of techniques that help people feel more calm. Which method(s) you choose will depend on your personality and what feels relaxing to you. If yoga hurts and distracts you, it isn’t likely to also be your type of relaxation. Perhaps your relaxation looks more like strolling quietly through nature or sitting with a warm cup of tea and gazing into the distance. As the sole resident of your brain, only you will know what brings calm to your mind and body. If you don’t know what that is yet, try some of the following.

Stress may be inevitable, but living in a constant state of stress doesn’t have to be the norm. It shouldn’t be the norm. Taking a bit of time each day to care for ourselves properly can help protect us from the long term impact of a stress filled life. Knowing stress feeds disease activity and may steal literal years from your life, it is worth the effort to manage it well.

Want to help support TenaciousME? Click the button to donate today!

Best Gifts for Rheumatoid Arthritis 2021 Edition

We polled 100’s of RA patients to find out what tops their 2021 holiday wish list. Here’s what they asked for! From gifts to keep them warm and toasty to gadgets that will help them get things done, our readers had a ton of great ideas! Read on to find out what your arthritic loved one would be overjoyed to unwrap this year!

The number one item on the wish list of RA patients this year, health, healing and relief. They are tired of doing battle with their own bodies and just want their old lives back. They want to be well. They long to be able. That longing for healing doesn’t stop at their own bodies, they also ask for healing for those they love, and for our world. Unless you happen to possess real magic, health is probably not something you can deliver this year, so what can you do? You can offer them help, understanding, kindness, and some lovely gifts to help them feel a bit better (or at least more capable).

Coming in hot on the heels of wishes for health and healing, were pleas for help. Our readers are exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed out by the upcoming holiday season. The best gift you can give, help getting through their to-do list. Offer to assist with cleaning, cooking, or gift wrapping. Want to really wow them? Spring for maid service to get their home shipshape and give them the gift of being able to devote their energy to other things. Anything you can do to take some of the burden of holiday preparation from them will be greatly appreciated.

No time to give before the holiday? No problem, your chronically ill loved one could use help year-round. Time to print a coupon book filled with offers to help with the housework, cook or bring food, gentle hugs are also appreciated.

The next most requested thing on the list was also not a thing…mobility. Your loved one with RA longs to be able to do whatever it is that they enjoy doing. They also want to be capable of caring for their own needs. While you cannot fix their mobility issues yourself, perhaps you can help them reach their goal with a little creative planning and the help of some new tools. A quick search for ‘arthritis tools for (insert hobby name)’ will most likely get you on the right track for finding the things they will need to do the what they want to do. For help caring for themselves check out this list of 10 great self care items for arthritis sufferers.

Speaking of suffering with arthritis, relief from pain and fatigue are also high on the wish list of those with RA. Chronic pain being one of the primary symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, anything that will offer them a bit of relief would be greatly appreciated. The remedies that RA patients swear by include many mentholated creams, like Biofreeze. The most frequently asked for topical remedies were CBD oils and creams.

To chase away the pain, those surveyed also asked for hand and foot massagers, massaging chairs, and my favorite request, “a heating pad that covers my entire body”. Want to really make their day? A gift certificate for a massage is sure to bring them comfort and let them know you want them to feel their best.

For relief from fatigue, well sadly there isn’t one item to be bought that can help with that. It isn’t something caffeine can chase away. Vitamins won’t touch it. The only thing that helps with fatigue is rest. A little help from you or an invitation to do some deep couch surfing while you handle things are the best remedy you can offer.

Whether you give them a full body heating pad, a handy gadget, or the simple gift of your time and assistance, one thing is sure, choosing to give something from this list is sure to let them know you understand and wish for them to feel better.

Happy Holidays from the TenaciousME family.

Want to help support TenaciousME? Click the button to donate today!

Chronic Illness Holiday Survival Guide

Remember when holidays were times of magic and joy? You know, back before you were in charge of bringing said joy to the table? The good old days, when the turkey arrived at the table surrounded but trimmings with but the smallest bit of effort from you, gifts magically appeared under the tree while you slept. Before you knew just how much work goes into creating anything magical, when you could look forward to them with nothing but joy. Those were the days.

Staring down the barrel of what I have come to think of as the holiday gauntlet that is winter in North America, it is easy to become overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done to create that illusion of holiday magic. The hunt for the perfect gifts, hours in the kitchen prepping delicious foods that take longer than you imagine they will, cleaning, decorating, attending parties, visiting relatives, preparing for visitors…the list just goes on and on and on. Add in a chronic illness that limits your ability to keep up with “normal people” and it is easy to see why so many chronic illness sufferers feel like they are not up to the task. The truth is, they probably can’t do it all. The good news? They were never meant to.

Searching the history books (okay, I used google) and the brain of my history/anthropology buff eldest son, I have discovered something really important that all of the high holidays and feasts have in common. They are rooted in community. Each and every one of them began as a community celebration, a time to come together and share. Traditionally, the days leading up to those festivals were spent working together to prepare for the festivities, whatever they may be. The key word here is, together. Not one of the upcoming holidays began as a one woman sprint to do it all. Not one. Which leads us to the first step we will take for holiday survival with chronic illness.

Stop Trying To Do It All

Repeat after me, “this isn’t a one woman show”. Know how I know? You are preparing to celebrate with people, those people, should also be preparing for celebrations with you. Time to work on two skills everyone with chronic disease needs to master, delegating and asking for help. Start by assigning the things that really don’t need your personal touch to someone who can get them done. Yes, the wreath needs to hang on the door, no you don’t have to personally place it there. Sure, someone needs to run to the post office to mail packages, certainly doesn’t have to be you. Next, take a look at your to-do list, choose the hardest things on the list for you to accomplish, and ask for help. Invite your kids and spouse into the kitchen to help with the prep work, hand the vacuum to the teenager and let their version of cleaning be good enough for today, ask a friend to come help you dig out the holiday gear. You might be surprised how helpful your loved ones can be, once they know you need their help.

Simplify

While you are pondering that holiday to-do list, consider if you will, an alternate world where half that list doesn’t even exist. Lightens the load doesn’t it? What could you do with the time and energy you will spend at the neighbors’ annual party that you dread every year but attend anyway because it is expected? Would ordering the cookies from the bakery leave you in better shape for attending the event you don’t want to miss?  Consider the things you are expected to do, invited to do, and want to do, and make a plan that makes more room for the latter. It is okay to say no. Even during the holidays. Even to your family. Something many of the makers of magic seem to have forgotten, its is YOUR holiday too. It should feel like it!

Get your free printable symptom journal here.

Pace Yourself

Speaking of feeling like it, you will feel much more capable of surviving the season if you pace yourself. Trying to do it all at once will only lead to pain and failure, so set yourself up for success. Planning to space out the things you need to do will make you much more likely to get them done. Avoid the pain and suffering of an all night gift wrapping session by wrapping a few at a time over a week. Do a little bit of several different projects a day to avoid physical burnout. Remember that your daily energy and strength are limited resources and make a plan that respects them. Limping into the holiday feeling miserable because you overdid it getting there is not the goal! Enjoying the time with those you love, that is the goal here.

Don’t Forget Self Care!

With that goal in mind, be sure to leave time in your holiday schedule for self-care. This is no time to skip all the self-care rituals that keep you moving!  If anything, it is a time to double down on self-care so you can find the energy to get through it.  So, take the supplements, build downtime into that hectic schedule, take a nap, eat real food between all those lovely treats, and try to get some sleep at night.  The holidays will be so very much more enjoyable if you do.

While there is no doubt that this holidays can be challenging to get through, it doesn’t have to feel like an uphill battle. Taking time to care for you, pacing yourself, delegating, asking for help, saying no, and paring down on the things you have to do will make it much less of a battle.  Save the battling for the really tough stuff, like washing your hair.

What gets you through the busy times in life? Drop your holiday survival tips in the comments! Looking for the perfect gift for a loved one with chronic pain/arthritis? Keep an eye out for the 2021 gift guide!

Want to help support TenaciousME? Click the button to donate today!

Finding your new normal

Remember the good old days? The days when you could do anything you pleased without having to worry about the fallout? You know, back before everything became a massive daily struggle? When you could make a list of things you wanted to do, and actually do them? Those were the days huh? I miss those days. The days before chronic disease started calling the shots.

If you thought I was referring to pre-pandemic life, it’s no surprise. Much like the new national normal, the new normal of a person who has been handed a chronically debilitating disease diagnosis is often a bleak, lonely, shadow of the old normal with a big spoonful of suck and a side of struggle. It’s not a good time. I don’t recommend it. But,much like the 2020’s, if you’ve found yourself afloat in the sea of suck that is chronic illness, the only way through is through. There is no turning back, no time out, no rewind. It is what it is. So now what?

Now, as you’ve probably heard, its time to find your new normal. Before you panic thinking about recent examples of new normal and how much that tends to suck, take a deep breath and remember, this is still your life, you call the shots, and change is good. (No, really,I promise.) If there is any hope at all that you will find your way out of this sea of suck and back to the shores of something that resembles a normal life, you are going to have to make some changes. After all, doing what you have been doing has brought you here and, as you may have guessed, the sea of suck is a whirlpool, its going to take some effort to pull away. The great news is, you absolutely do not have to row this boat alone. In fact, now that the disease has a name and treatment options, you can build an entire team of doctors and support staff to help get you to that new normal.

First, the hard part. It’s time to consider what you are going to have to let go of to get out of here. Some of it may, unfortunately feel like precious cargo. You are going to have to let it go anyway. I’m sorry. Letting go of the things you used to do is one of the most challenging aspects of living well with chronic disease. “Used to be able” has become a jagged bit of metal you will only wound yourself with. No good comes of wallowing in “I used to be able”. Thank it for being there for you when it was and bid it a fond farewell. Something new will fill that void, promise. You may no longer be able to do everything, but what you choose to do will be that much more precious because you have decided it deserves to stay in the boat.

Now, the only thing left to do is chart a course. (That’s pick a direction, for you non-seafaring folk)

What do you want your new normal to look like?

What parts of your old normal do you want to keep?

Which parts are you stuck with?

Make a list, a dream board or some other visual representation of the life you wish to be living. Something you can turn to when the going gets extra rough and you are struggling to remember what you are even trying to do. Now is a good time to consider some of the precious cargo you tossed as well. Is there a version of that you can do? Maybe you had to let go of the job you loved because it was destroying your feet to be on them so much…could you do it part time instead? Is there a way to do what you want in smaller, easier to manage chunks? Can it be adapted to the new you? If you think it can, add it to the wishlist.

Click here for your Free Printable Symptom Journal!

Now, step back and take a look at your new normal, not nearly as bleak as you thought it was, is it? Okay, so maybe its only the plan for your new normal. Getting there is of course an entirely different story. Not sure where to start? Check out our Living with Autoimmune Disease section, learn Five Keys to Managing Your Autoimmune condition, or browse our blog articles for more helpful tips and information. Need support? Pop on over to the Chronically Tenacious group on facebook for understanding and community.

Want to help support TenaciousME? Click the button to donate today!

Gardening with RA

Do you love the idea of a garden but cringe when you think of the body ache inducing work it takes to create and maintain one?  If you could enjoy the fruits of your labors without the pain of the labor, would you?  Gardening, even with a body riddled with arthritis and prone to exhaustion, can be a relaxing and rewarding process.  A few changes to the way you approach the task can make it a (mostly) painless process.  As painless as anything with an angry body can be.

1.  Raise It!  Gardening on the ground means stooping, crouching, reaching, and bending, all things cranky joints hate to do.  Raising the height of your gardening efforts can greatly reduce the strain on your body.  Raised beds, hanging planters, and patio pots are all wonderful options to help reduce the strain of gardening.  Place patio planters on stands or overturned pots to raise them to an easier to reach height. 

Planters that are mounted on walls, railings, or fences are also a wonderful option. When you are working with bags of dirt or fertilizer, place them on a chair, cart, or other higher surface to make reaching them easier. If you cannot raise your garden, get on its level with a stool or garden seat.

2. Get the right tools for the job.  Using adapted tools can greatly improve your gardening experience.  Long handled tools that eliminate the need to hunch or crouch, chunky handled tools that are more friendly to arthritic hands, electric weeders and trimmers that take the labor out of the work, there are tools to fit just about every need.  Struggle to use rakes and shovels with straight handles?  Check out these amazing offset handles, which change the grip and give you leverage at the same time.  Amazing!

3.  Eliminate watering woes.  One of the biggest challenges of gardening can be keeping up with the needs of thirsty plants.  Watering used to require dragging heavy watering cans, wrestling with unruly hoses, squeezing spray handles and generally just a whole lot of challenges.  Thankfully, there are now many ways to take the struggle out of keeping plants hydrated.  Instead of wrestling with heavy, awkward hoses, invest in a collapsible hose, they are not only lighter but also much more flexible and easier to move around.  Ditch the more common squeeze trigger style spray handle for one with an easy to push lever handle.  Eliminate the need for hoses altogether by investing in an automated watering system.  There are many different types of irrigation systems on the market now. 

4. Get ahead of weed control.  Planning ahead will greatly reduce the number of hours you have to spend defending your garden from invaders, aka the dreaded weeds.  Using a commercial weed barrier is a great first line of defense. Mulching with bark, shredded paper, or placing cardboard or newspapers down as a weed barrier also work well. As an added bonus, mulches and paper barriers also help prevent water loss, meaning less watering for you.  Planting ground cover plants near taller plants is also a great strategy to edge out weeds.  The fuller your planters are with things you want, the less space there will be for things you don’t. 

5.  Start small.  It can be tempting to go all-in when it comes to gardening.  After all there are literally hundreds of plants you could grow.  Planting more than you can manage however, leads to failure and disappointment.  Starting with a small raised bed or a few pots on your patio is a wonderful way to ease into gardening and gauge your ability to keep up.  Keep in mind, each plant needs weeding, watering, fertilizing, perhaps occasional pruning, and a bit of love to thrive.  Growing one amazing tomato plant is far more rewarding than watching an acre of garden being swallowed by neglect.  Keep it simple, start small.

6.  Pace yourself!   Rome was not built in a day, nor were the gardens of Versailles.  Reaching your gardening visions will take time.  There is no reason to do it all at once.  Break the job down into smaller chunks.  Get the soil ready one day, plant another day.  (Or many other days.)  Mulching, weeding, even watering can be done some at a time.  Keep in mind that overdoing it today might take you down for several days, you will survive it, but your garden may not.  Plan for consistency by not biting off more than you can chew today. 

7. Last but never least, ASK FOR HELP!  I know you hate asking for help, especially with things you choose to do for entertainment or recreation.  The fact is, bags of dirt are heavy, sometimes things that should turn won’t turn, and you will just plain run into things you can’t do alone.  That is fine, there are other humans, ask them to give you a quick hand.  You can reward them with yummy veggies or pretty flowers later. 

With the right tools and a few adaptations gardening with RA and other physical challenges can be a rewarding and relaxing hobby. What tips and tools have you discovered that help make gardening more of a joy for you?

Want to help support TenaciousME? Click the button to donate today!

Chronic Illness Struggles- What Will They Think of Me?

Have you ever worried that you don’t measure up?  Do you feel like your ability to do all of the things falls far short of the expectations of your friends, family, boss, or society in general?  You are not alone.  Especially within the chronic illness community, humans spend a great deal of time worrying about how they are viewed by others.  Also, especially in the chronic illness community, they are often right, they are not meeting ALL of the expectations of others, but seriously, how could they?  Have you taken a look at the size of that list lately? 

Spoiler alert, you will never, even on the very best of days be able to be exactly who everyone needs you to be.  If tomorrow you woke and your illness had magically disappeared, trust me when I assure you, you would still without a doubt be an odd disappointment and failure by someone’s standards.  But wait, there is hope…because guess what?  You don’t have to meet any standards you didn’t set for yourself, and even those are negotiable. 

You are battling your body daily, doing the best you can to do the things you have decided are important.  There is no time or energy left for worrying if your mother-in-law thinks you are lazy and don’t know how to clean.  I mean, she probably does, but who cares, mothers-in-law are notoriously displeased, don’t sweat it.  You could hire a secret team of maids and she’d still find a way to pick you apart, some people are just like that.  (Not my mother-in-law mind you, I’m one of the lucky ones, but I have heard the horror stories!) 

Whether it is your in-laws, your spouse, boss, co-worker, or that annoying lady at school drop off who always seems to know exactly what everyone else should be doing, you are under no obligation to please anyone. Will they sometimes wonder why you do the things you do? You bet, and you will likely often wonder why in the world they do the things they do as well.

Life is too short to worry that others think you are not enough.  You are enough.  Even in whatever cracked form you find yourself in today.  You are enough.  Perfectly imperfect just the way you are, flaws and all.

Looking for other perfectly imperfect chronic illness fighters? Pop on over to the Chronically Tenacious community. Want to help support the tenacious blog? Click the button below to donate today!     

Chronically Behind

Does your to-do list seem to just keep growing?  Does it stare at you tauntingly from the desk or wall, knowing you will never defeat it?  Is it more of a growing list of things you can’t seem to get done than a list of things you will realistically get done today?  I’ve started to think of mine as a list of shit I probably won’t get done today or this week, but plan to try to do one day when I feel like I can fit it in.  As that is an insane length for a title, I call it my “want to-do” list, an always growing list of chores, projects, and brilliant ideas that I will tackle, just as soon as I have the energy and brainpower needed to do that.

Unfortunately, especially in winter, checking things off the list is slow.  As my body reacts to months of pain inducing weather changes, reduced activity, and lack of fresh air and sunshine, my ability to get things done shrinks.  That’s how it is with chronic disease, the more active your symptoms have been, the harder the normal stuff becomes. If those symptoms include reduced mobility and dexterity, some things become temporarily physically impossible.  Since the must do list doesn’t get any smaller, that means less energy for the stuff I’d like to get to.  Rather than constantly beating myself up for being chronically behind, I decided to change the name of the list.  From ‘to-do’ to ‘want to-do’, ta-da, pressure removed, bliss restored, stress reduced, ahhh.

Now I can get back to ignoring the things I cannot do, knowing they are safely stowed in my notebook for a day when I feel capable of doing them justice.  When I find I have spare energy and time, I can pull it out and find something to check off, until then, it’s not taunting me from my desk, making me feel like a complete and utter failure because I am currently incapable of getting it all done.

Do you struggle with feeling chronically behind?  What has helped you deal with those always changing limits and abilities?  Find support and understanding in the Chronically Tenacious Community

.

Are You Okay?

As the new normal continues to be anything but normal and the strangeness of 2020 stretches on into the foreseeable future, it seems like a mental health check in is in order.  How are we holding up?  A quick look around at yourself and your loved ones might be a bit alarming. (How long has he been wearing that pair of lounge pants anyway?  Is hair brushing actually essential?)  Among my tribe I’ve begun to notice that even the toughest are starting to crack a bit under the pressure of doing the right thing in a world where the right thing depends on who you ask. 

The effects of the long-term suspension of our normal outlets and activities are really starting to show.  Depression, frustration, anger, and addictive behaviors of all kinds are becoming all too common in “the new normal”.  We are consuming more alcohol, binge watching more television, hitting the add to cart button with reckless abandon, spending hours scrolling through TicTok and Instagram.  If it’s a crutch or an escape mechanism, we are holding onto that puppy like a life raft these days. 

Are you addicted to the SIMS like me? There is no 12 step program but find support and yours truly on the community forum. Look for Corallady.

For me that means spending hours with my head in a book or designing dream homes for Sims and running their tiny, old-normal lives.  It means smoking more than I should and drinking more often.  It means allowing my younger son to spend waaaay too much time on his latest video game obsession, after all, he’s at least communicating with people on there, so that’s something, right?  Like the rest of the country, we are here holding onto whatever pieces of normal we have been able to preserve and keeping our eyes on them in hopes we wake to a brighter, normal-er future. Not to spoil a perfectly good escape mechanism but, hiding from our problems has never solved them before and it’s not likely to now. 

If we don’t start gaining control of our crutches, we may soon find we can’t do without them.  Crutches are tricky like that.  “Yeah but, Stasha, life still sucks, and I can’t do what I want, and its making me depressed so…”  I hear ya, I feel ya, I am right here with you. I’d like very much to just build the tiny homes all day and not pay any attention to the general state of the world outside my door.  But the building of virtual realities will not make my reality nicer when I emerge.

Life rolls on, whether we are paying it any attention or not.  So, whatever it is you are missing, or stressing about, or afraid of, or uncertain about, it’s time to start looking it over.  Consider the things you can control first, maybe start by taking a bit more control of when you choose to pick up the crutches.  We may not be able to solve all of the problems we see, but we just might be able to take a crack at our own. Overwhelmed or need help to find your way back to okay? Take a look at the this –> list and call or click for help today.

Keep Warm and Carry On- Surviving Winter with Arthritis

The weather today has me grumbly and groany. I remember when falling snow brought feelings of wonder and glee. Now it’s all pain and annoyance, often served with a helping of self pity and heaps of promises to move to a kinder climate one day. There is no doubt about it, the blanket of snow that my younger self adored now brings with it the worst of my RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) symptoms. No ifs, ands or buts about it, winter with RA, or any of the other 100+ types of arthritis, is rough. It doesn’t have to be taming a tiger rough, it can be toilet training a toddler rough. Messy, frustrating, sometimes painfully so, but not likely to cripple you. Over the years, I’ve found a few things that help me keep moving when the world freezes over.

The first and probably most obvious is staying warm. If you have any type of arthritis you know what it feels like when you get too cold. With RA that bone chilled stiffness and pain can invade your entire body. So dress warm, layer up. Develop a deep love for cozy sweaters, fuzzy socks, and all things snuggly and warm. Finger-less gloves are a must for anyone with hand/wrist arthritis. Keep those hands toasty, thank me later. Use hand and foot warmers when you go out into the cold. If you are a sports family and spend any time at outdoor sports, get a padded (or even better, heated) cushion to sit on at games. The toastier you are, the less you will ache later. At home, heated wraps, heated blankets, and heated mattress pads all help beat the cold and ease the aches and pains of arthritis. Other things that chase away that bone chilling cold feeling are hand spas, wood burning stoves, and the ultimate dream, hot tubs! Anything that really pushes the heat into those bones will make you ache less. The number one rule for winter survival with arthritis, the cozier you are, the better you will feel.

Dressing warm helps protect us from the cold, but what about the ice outside? Every winter 1 million Americans are injured in a winter slip/fall accident. In fact, most of the slip and fall injuries occur at this time of year. Icy conditions can make staying on your feet a challenge. Add any kind of balance or mobility issues, like those often associated with arthritic damage, and it is easy to see why so many people unexpectedly find themselves on the ground in winter. Luckily, there are a few great aids out there to help people stay upright. A nice warm pair of winter boots with an aggressive tread are your first defense against slippery ice. Ice cleats, made to slide over your shoes, are made by a variety of companies and help add traction to everyday shoes and winter boots. A walking stick, especially one equipped with an ice spike tip, can help you stay on your feet by providing an extra point of balance and grip. Last, but certainly not least, Walk Like a Penguin! No, I’m not kidding, those tuxedoed flightless birds certainly have perfected the art of the slow and steady waddle. So, don’t rush, pay attention to where you are putting your feet and waddle away. It might take longer to get where you are going, but the time you save healing broken bones will be well worth it.

Finally, and just as important as staying warm and upright, taking measures to stay as healthy as possible will make winter much more tolerable. It is no secret that most colds and flus spread more quickly in winter. It also happens to be the time of year those with arthritis complain of the most inflammation. There are a few reasons for this, and many ways we can combat this pattern. Winter generally means less time outside in the sun, fewer fresh fruits and veggies, less exercise, and holiday after holiday filled with delicious, inflammatory treats. It’s pretty easy to guess why this is the least healthy time of year in the Northern hemisphere. Vitamin depletion paired with higher germ exposure from being cooped up inside allows winter bugs to spread. Being sure you are getting enough fruits and veggies, adding a multivitamin and a vitamin D supplement can help build your immunity and resistance to those nasty invaders. Protecting yourself from germs by washing hands frequently and wearing a mask, can help you dodge many of the bugs we pass around in winter. Getting exercise daily will also help you stay healthy and keep arthritic joints mobile. So dig out those exercise videos and move it! Or, better yet, bundle up and go try snowshoeing, cross country skiing or some other low impact winter exercise. The fresh air and sunshine will do you good.

Staying healthy when you have inflammatory arthritis disorders, like RA or PsA, also means watching out for those delicious holiday treats and the endless comfort foods available in winter. Being mindful of what you are eating will make your holidays, and the days between, much more bearable. It is an undeniable fact that sugar causes inflammation, this is true even for completely healthy bodies. In autoimmune bodies, consuming sugar is very much like throwing gasoline on a fire. The result will always be a flare up of that unwanted fiery activity, inflammation. So proceed with caution. Keep in mind that those treats you are reaching for come with pain later, and don’t sign up for more than you can handle. Better yet, offset the fuel you add to the fire with some inflammation busters like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, green tea, and chaga. These powerful plants and fungi are excellent fire fighters, proven to reduce inflammation. Being mindful of diet and including some helpful inflammation busters will go a long way toward making winter less achy.

With a little extra self-care, a bit of caution, and all the warm things you can get your chilly little paws on, winter doesn’t have to be the season of endless suffering. You might even find some pretty great days. Between storms of course, they’ve yet to make a cure for those weather related symptoms every arthritis sufferer lives with. Until they do, I’ll be spending these stormy days snuggled up with my electric blanket and a big steamy cup of chai green tea, plotting my escape to warmer destinations.

What gets you through winter with arthritis?

%d bloggers like this: