Adjusting to a New RA Diagnosis
Care for your emotional and physical health as you manage rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Learning you have a chronic illness can bring on many emotions. Adjusting to the diagnosis and getting on with life can be tough. Even though you may feel overwhelmed, know that you are not alone.
Follow this advice to get you off to a good start.
You Are Not Your Illness
Pain and disease can start to take over your life if you’re not careful. Stay physically and mentally active. Remain engaged with the people and things you love. You’re the same person you always were. You just have new challenges.
Accept the Bad Days
It’s common for RA symptoms to flare now and then. Sometimes you know exactly what causes a flare—overwork, stress or an infection like a cold. But pain and stiffness can also come on for no apparent reason. Most symptoms calm down in a day or two. When bad days come, focus on taking care of yourself. Eat well, do less, and sleep more. If flares linger or happen often, talk to your doctor.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. This can be hard, especially if you take pride in being independent. But asking for help can be a sign of strength. And it will get easier the more you do it. Also consider the people in your life. Your illness may be just as hard for them as it is for you. They may want to help, but aren’t sure what to do. Talk honestly about everyone’s needs and expectations.
Build a Support Network
It’s fine to rely on friends and family, but sometimes the best support comes from other people who have RA. You can connect with them through an online community or local support group. The Arthritis Foundation offers both through the LiveYes Network. Online forums and support groups lift you up when you need it and give you tried-and-true tips about life with RA.
You can get a double boost by adding physical activity to community. Participate in Walk to Cure Arthritis or Jingle Bell Run. Or find a workout buddy at an Arthritis Foundation Live Yes Connect Group in your area. Find more information through your local office.
Recognize and Treat Depression
Depression is common in RA. About 30% of people develop it within five years of their diagnosis. Warning signs include constant tiredness, lack of appetite, trouble making decisions, poor sleep and feeling worthless. If you see these symptoms in yourself, try exercise, stress relief, and support from family and friends. If those actions don’t help, seek out a mental health professional.
Diagnosed With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
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