Ever left a family holiday gathering churning with tension and swearing that, next year, you’re going somewhere far, far away? These events sometimes ratchet up anxiety and stress, which are not only unpleasant but also can undermine your health and well-being. Take heart. Here, three experts offer different approaches to help you keep the peace and ward off stress.
Family gatherings can be occasions to celebrate – or to dread. You look forward to seeing some relatives, but others leave you stressed.
The first step is to take care of yourself, says clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD, a professor at California State University, Los Angeles.
“Protect your time and space,” she says. “Get your own room at a hotel or Airbnb [if you’re traveling]. Explain that you can’t stay up late.” When you’re rested and in control of your arthritis, you can more easily deal with annoyances and enjoy this “most wonderful time of the year.”
A personal health record (PHR) is an app or computer program you can use to maintain and manage your health information privately, securely and confidentially. Keeping a PHR can help you coordinate care among your rheumatologist, dermatologist, physical therapist, cardiologist and any other providers you see.
You can get a PHR through your doctor or employer, or find one on the internet or in the app store of your phone. If you’re not comfortable having your information out on the cloud, you can keep your data in a loose leaf binder or a journal, or store it on a flash drive.
There are two types of PHR: standalone and tethered/connected.
Our readers share their do’s and don’ts for holiday decorating!
Wrapping gifts and baking cookies can be a real challenge with arthritis pain and fatigue. We asked some experts for ways to make these time-honored holiday traditions easier and healthier.
Until recently, spondyloarthritis (spon-di-low-ar-THRI-tis) didn’t receive much attention. It’s now generating more interest, in part because it’s diagnosed more often and there are better ways to treat it, says rheumatologist Philip Mease, MD, a professor at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
The pressure of coping with arthritis can ratchet up stress and anxiety – a condition that affects as many as 1 in 3 people with arthritis. And that, in turn, can worsen the symptoms of chronic diseases and contribute to a host of other problems.
“When we are stressed or perceive a threat, our body responds with physiologic responses that prepare us to fight or escape the enemy,” says Rudy Nydegger, PhD, a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at Union Graduate College in Schenectady, N.Y. “Our heart rate and breathing speed up, our muscles tense and blood flow to the brain increases, putting us in a state of high awareness.” That can help protect you if the enemy is an attacking tiger and the threat ends quickly. But when ongoing stress leads to anxiety (excessive worry), it can result in a heightened awareness of symptoms – for instance, pain feels worse – as well as increased susceptibility to infection and risk of other health problems, including heart disease. Anxiety can have indirect health impacts, too, if it leads to inactivity, interferes with sleep or leads you to eat unhealthy foods for comfort.
Gardening can be a pain-free hobby for people living with arthritis—all you need is a little planning and creativity.
Yes, the cold and humidity can make your joints ache.
Can you feel a storm coming in your knees? So can lots of people with arthritis. Some doctors think that these stories of weather causing joint pain are old wives’ tales, but science is backing up the phenomenon.
Continue reading Weather and Arthritis Pain
Researchers agree – meditation can help with a host of health problems. “Relaxing and quieting your mind by focusing on your breathing can reduce stress – even the stress that comes with arthritis flares,” says David E. Yocum, MD, director of the Arizona Arthritis Center in Tucson. His studies, as well as others, found that patients who meditated responded to stress with lower heart rates and improved immune function; and that meditation, in combination with traditional medicines, appears to help patients with chronic pain. Studies have shown that meditation inhibits or relieves pain perception. And in a study published in the American Academy of Pain Medicine’s scientific journal in April 2015, 43 patients who used a mindfulness meditation program as part of their pain management experienced lower general anxiety and depression, better mental quality of life (psychological well-being), a greater feeling of control of the pain, and higher pain acceptance.
Continue reading Easy Meditation Options for Pain