While attending a pharmacy conference last week, I thought of how using the brain can help manage my rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Although the subject of the conference was neurology, not RA, my mind eventually wandered over to the place of applying what I could to my personal health experience, living with RA.
That meant applying what I learned to better care for my rheumatoid arthritis. As neurotransmitter levels and mood were being discussed, I related this information to the relationship between RA, mood, and disease management. This made me to think of how I use my brain to plan make decisions concerning my autoimmune lifestyle.
There are 3 ways using your brain can help manage rheumatoid arthritis. Like I’ve said before, living well with RA is a process, not instant pudding. Here are the 3 ways:
- Get to know your body. In particular, think about and be aware of how your body feels, how your joints feel and what is going on around you. Start “listening” to your body. Being cognizant of what you are doing, eating, behavior habits, mood, stress levels, sleep patterns, activities and how these things may be affecting your joints and other RA symptoms, such as fatigue. This takes time and a self-awareness. It is a process. As an example, I discovered some cause and effects with my RA symptoms after I started paying attention to what my body was telling me. I discovered stress, even positive-happy-type stress worsens my joint pain. I learned when I eat green, leafy salads I feel better and think better. If I get 8 hours of sleep, I have less joint issues. If I walk daily and have a 50 minute pilates session weekly, I feel better. This is an ongoing practice I will continue to do all my life. I’m currently “testing” eliminating gluten from my diet because I’m suspecting a gluten intolerance. Continuous assessment of how my joints feel and my fatigue level are a way of life now.
- Information, not inflammation. Learn all you can about the disease and every aspect of living with it. Get to know all about your medications and your medication options. Your pharmacist can help you by giving you medication information literature. Know side effects, potential drug interactions and particulars about the drugs you are on. Keep your eyes open for articles in the health section of your newspaper, go to the library and read publications such as Arthritis Today, read Arthritis Wisdom, and news releases concerning anything RA from major medical and research centers. Use the information to fine tune how you live your day-to-day life to help your body fight the autoimmune disease. Personally, I’m focusing on anti-inflammatory eating and monitoring my schedule to allow for plenty of rest.
- Take a mental rest. Speaking of rest, mental rest is so important and healthy. I routinely meditate and read for enjoyment. The mental rest affects my joints in a positive way. I have found stress reduction so helpful managing my RA. When I feel my joints getting sore, I think about what I may be stressing over, then take time to allow my body to relax. That is when I meditate or read something uplifting to my mental and emotional being. Assess if you are overcommitting and need to slow down and lighten your load, then do so. Purpose to take a mental rests as you schedule your days.
Using the brain by getting to know your body, gathering information about all things RA and allowing for mental rest to help manage your rheumatoid arthritis will be a lifelong endeavor. There is new information coming out constantly. Be picky about your sources. Stick with the reputable ones. Major medical and research centers and the Arthritis Foundation are a great start.
By listening to your body, educating yourself about the disease and lifestyle choices and being willing to make tough choices ,like giving up a satisfying job, in addition to medications have allowed me a good quality of life lately. Feeling good is a powerful motivator and using my brain to learn all that I can to help my body fight the RA is so worth the effort. And that is using Arthritis Wisdom!
How have you used your brain to help manage your RA? We would love to hear!