One of THE things that is most likely to stir up a flare for me is stress - not everyday stress, but a spike in stressful situations. This spike could be from perceived or actual stress. It doesn't seem to matter either way.
How do I handle it? To be honest, I have to remind myself of these things often. Why? I forget how well they work, and in the heat of a stressful moment, they don't come to mind. I've learned to write them out and place them where I can see them now.
I hope they're as helpful to you as they are to me. I'd love to hear which one(s) were the most helpful and what works for you too.
How to reduce stress levels immediately
- Take a 5 minute meditation break. I love the Headspace app for this!
- Do some progressive muscle relaxation, starting from the top of my head and ending with the bottoms of my feet. YouTube has some great videos on how to do this.
- Take a few deep breaths. There's even a GIF for this now. Do a count like this: inhale to a count of 5, hold for 4, exhale to a count of 5. Repeat until you feel your body start to relax.
- Forest bathing/grounding. When you can, take a walk barefoot in a wooded area or on a patch of grass. Pretend that tree roots are growing down from the bottoms of your feet. Try and leave your cellphone at home or in your vehicle.
How to reduce stress levels in short order
- Ask a loved one for a hug (or two). Physical touch from a loved one can be so healing. It releases 'feel good' bonding hormones that help you feel loved, safe, and secure. All emotions that help keep you calm and grounded.
- Get creative. Activities such as coloring, drawing, and even writing can be helpful when practiced regularly.
- Diffusing essential oils or creating a calming room spray work with your body to reduce anxious feelings.
- REST. I cannot say this enough. When you are stressed out and resemble the Tasmanian Devil. Sit down and rest. Resting your body works to rejuvenate and bring it into a calmer state.
How to reduce stress over time
- Eat a balanced diet. Giving your body the nourishment it needs is key to managing your blood sugar levels and your mood. The first step in doing this is finding out what foods do/do not work for you by completing an elimination diet.
- Make time for FUN. I know for some that this is difficult, but you know the saying, "all work and no play makes you a dull boy...or girl. One thing we love to do is find free, easy hikes deep in the woods. Fun doesn't have to cost a lot.
- Practice positive self talk. This one's a biggie! How we speak to ourselves matters. If we aren't kind to ourselves, it's almost impossible to reduce our stress levels. Speak life to your heart!
- Work on gratitude. The happiest people are grateful people. It doesn't take much - keeping a list of 3 things you are thankful for daily. On the tough days, it's okay to keep it simple. The point is to make it a practice. We're not looking for perfection here.
There you have it! My top tips for managing stress while living with rheumatoid arthritis. I hope they're helpful to you as you work towards healing yourself naturally - body, soul, AND mind. This is part 3 in my series, "Living with RA". I wrote about pain and fatigue. Check them out and let me know what you think!