Managing Emotions and Arthritis
Learn how to manage the emotions you may experience when dealing with a chronic condition like arthritis.
Emotions that come along with the pain, fatigue and other physical symptoms of arthritis can be surprising and even overwhelming. It’s natural and understandable for people with arthritis to experience an ebb and flow of resilience and anxiety. Your life stage, self-image, relationships, responsibilities, economic security and disease status will affect your emotions as you manage your disease.
The Emotional Journey
“The ways we react to crisis are highly individual and varied. You may experience a range of many – sometimes contradictory – emotions simultaneously,” says Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, professor of psychology and counseling at the College of New Rochelle in New York.
Some emotions you may encounter during your journey living with arthritis include:
Anxiety and fear
Jealousy or resentment
Stress and tension
Fostering Emotional Wellbeing
These emotions don’t stand alone. Your mind and body are closely linked. Your physical symptoms will influence the feelings you experience. And your emotions can change the way you perceive physical symptoms, and make them worse. For example, if you’re in pain you may become short-tempered or withdraw from friends and family. On the other hand, focusing on something good in your life can make your aches and pains easier to cope with. That’s why caring for your emotional health is a critical part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
There are steps you can take to improve your emotional wellbeing, including:
- Working with your doctor to get your disease under control and minimize medication side effects is an important first step.
- Doing what you can to keep negative emotions at bay through physical and emotional self-care. Some self-care options include mind-body practices, music and art therapy, exercise, a healthful diet, massage, and activity pacing.
- Getting involved in social activities to prevent feelings of isolation and find outlets for laughter and play.
- Seeking out professional counseling or an arthritis-specific support group can give you an outlet to talk about your emotions and provide you with coping mechanisms.
Doka recommends, “Nurture the strengths you’ve always had. Look back on how you’ve handled crises before and ask yourself how that can be useful to me now.” He says to ask yourself these questions:
What are some personal resources I have?
- How does my faith speak to me?
- Who do I know who’s very supportive?
- Who can I talk to?”
No matter where you are with your emotional journey with arthritis, you do have many options for managing your physical and emotional wellbeing. Remember that you aren’t alone in your feelings and keep these strategies in mind when you need help coping with pain and emotions.
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