Coping with the Emotional Roller Coaster of RA
Living with a chronic disease can be sort of like riding an emotional roller coaster. Everyone experiences stress, anxiety, and depression at different points throughout life, but people must face the prospect of a potentially debilitating disease that affects even the simplest tasks of day-to-day living. Let’s face it—it’s stressful.
Stress is an inevitable—even healthy—part of life. A little bit of short-term stress has actually been shown to sharpen our cognitive skills and strengthen our immune system; however, long-term, chronic stress can really take a toll on our health, compromising our sleep, immune system, physical health, and emotional wellbeing.
If you’re living with an autoimmune or inflammatory condition, stress can have damaging results. In fact, some research has suggested that stress may play a role in the actual inflammation that causes pain by releasing molecules called cytokines, which are partly responsible for the inflammation.1,2 Some people notice that when their stress levels rise, so does their pain. In contrast, sometimes the cycle works in reverse—as symptoms worsen, stress levels rise. Regardless of which comes first, the stress or the pain, it’s important to manage your emotional health so that you can live well and thrive every day. One of the most important ways to minimize stress and promote emotional health is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get plenty of sleep, maintain a regular schedule, eat a healthy diet, and make lifestyle changes to accommodate your symptoms.
The best way to manage stress is to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
We’ll never live in a world that’s completely stress-free, but we can learn to navigate our stress-filled world with ease so that we live with stress, not under stress.
These mind-body techniques are excellent tools for managing stress, anxiety, and depression—and some have even been shown to reduce pain.