Making the Most of Your Good Days

These tips can help you better manage the ups and downs of life with RA.

It’s not always easy living with a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis. The stiffness and pain can affect the activities you enjoy, your energy levels at work and at home, and even your relationships with family and friends.

As anyone with RA will tell you—there are going to be good days and not-so-good days. The key to a fulfilling life is learning how you can make the most of both.

Connecticut resident Marilyn K. knows a lot about ups and downs. Even though she has battled RA since junior high, she never let the disease stop her. Marilyn has enjoyed a full life as a wife, mother and professional physical therapist. “There are good days and bad days. And I believe that on a good day you should do all you can to have a good time,” says Marilyn, now in her mid-50s. “On a bad day remind yourself that it could be far worse.”

Keep doing what you love!

Feeling pretty good today? Take advantage of the moment. Meet your girlfriends for lunch or enjoy your favorite hobby—whatever’s going to lift your spirits. For Marilyn, a lover of all crafts, her high-energy days are spent satisfying her creative impulses—to paint, knit or crochet. But she enjoys these activities in moderation. “With RA you have to have harmony between you and your arthritis,” says Marilyn. “If I’m doing needlepoint, I may do it for just 10 minutes at a time.”

Don’t be shy about using assistive devices

Even on good days, it’s smart to conserve energy and use assistive devices that make everyday tasks a little less demanding. Marilyn finds it helpful to use grippers to open jars, foam-padded scissors to cut open mail and a rolling cart to carry purchases when she’s out doing errands. She’s also raised the height of her mattress to make getting in and out of bed easier. It’s best not to spoil a “good day” by using up too much energy on routine tasks

Call a complainer to feel better about yourself

And a final bit of advice? When Marilyn’s having a bad day, sometimes it helps her to call a friend who’s a known complainer. “I’m a positive person and a very good listener. It’s amazing how much better I feel listening to someone else complain,” says Marilyn. “If I’m depressed about my knee hurting … I sometimes call up a friend of mine who will complain and complain about absolutely nothing.” Having a sense of humor about life can go a long way. “A good attitude definitely, definitely helps,” says Marilyn. “I wake up in the morning and I may be not be able to move, but I am smiling.”

Published July 2012

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