If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you are no stranger to its marauding gang of symptoms: aches, pains, brain fog, fatigue, insomnia and stiffness, to name just a few. When you take care of your mind, body and spirit, you might just find that your RA symptoms improve. You can live better with RA with these ten tips, which will be posted one at a time.
Tip #1 - Transform Stress
My journey with RA is definitely better since I became Auntie Stress almost thirteen years ago. I often joke that I am my own best client. However, neither RA nor stress are jokes. When I transform my stress, I am better equipped to manage my life.
Self-care becomes easier when your system isn't flooded with stress hormones which have a tendency to move you further away from what you want.
If you want to live well, it's imperative that you learn strategies that help you break out of the stress cycle. Stress and RA have a direct influence on each other. Stress can increase inflammation. RA can increase stress.
If you've ever driven with someone who is stepping on the gas-brake-gas-brake-gas-brake, you'll know how distressing that is. The two branches of your autonomic nervous system (ANS) - sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system - are operating in a similar fashion. Go-stop-go-stop-go-stop - it's not a good feeling. This type of action tends to wear out the nervous system and sets up the scene for worsening health. Your system is disorderly and you pay the price.
Instead, onboard techniques that can bring your nervous system into balance.
Anytime. Anywhere. The beauty of these techniques is that they are not dependent upon waiting for a quiet room, after work, after school or a retreat. You can do them anytime once you know what to do.
Employ a mindful, deliberate approach and use your feelings to help you navigate out of The Stress Zone. When you learn to manage your thoughts and feelings, you gain invaluable emotional management techniques that allow you to shift out of the Stress Zone. A change in perspective can result in an internal change.
For example, last week I awoke with a number of stiff and swollen joints - something I haven't experienced in quite a long time.
Before Auntie Stress
I would immediately jump into "Oh no, is this the start of a major flare? What am I going to do? What if...?" That sort of fear-based thinking put me into The Stress Zone. The Stress Zone triggers a cascade of hormones that are designed for flight or fight. Additionally, it also triggers the inflammatory response.
After Auntie Stress
I regularly address and undress my stress. I am my own best client, after all! For example, last Friday, I awoke unusually stiff. I had rusty hinges for knees. My fingers were about as useful as sausages - they looked like them, too. Apparently I had marbles in my slippers - at least that's what my feet felt like.
I knew that panicking, wondering and worrying if this was the start of a flare, especially since I hadn't experienced this in quite some time, was not the best route to take. So, I started with a session on the Inner Balance. While I was doing that, I had ice packs and heat packs. I followed up with an easy swim, since exercise can help reduce inflammation. It didn't take long and I was moving as well as I normally do.
Heart rate variability (HRV) is the way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. Learning to improve my HRV and regularly practicing it has made a difference in my health and well-being.
Here's what Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School's blog, has to say in Heart rate variability: A new way to track well-being:
"If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the ANS the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience and flexibility. Over the past few decades, research has shown a relationship between low HRV and worsening depression or anxiety. A low HRV is even associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease.
People who have a high HRV may have greater cardiovascular fitness and be more resilient to stress. HRV may also provide personal feedback about your lifestyle and help motivate those who are considering taking steps toward a healthier life."
Here is how my Inner Balance technology helps me improve my HRV:
I use this device on a daily basis to assist me in living my best life with RA. The techniques can be done without the device however, there is power in having proof that I am in high coherence.
Are you curious about what this is showing you?
There are four challenge levels. As you build coherence within your system, you are encouraged to move up into the next level, which is more challenging to do. In level one and two you can move into high coherence by changing the way in which you breathe. Level three and four require a willful letting go by changing your feeling state.
Coherence indicates synchronization between your cognitive, emotional and physiological systems. When you are able to move out of low coherence into medium and/or high coherence, you enjoy greater feelings of well-being as well as increased immunity and other physical and mental health improvements.
Coherence Over Time
This shows a real time picture of what is happening with the two branches of your ANS.
You can see where I dropped from high coherence to medium coherence at about 2:25. This is when my thoughts shifted to an ongoing family issue. That's an example of how our ANS is influenced by how we think and feel.
HRV is the beat to beat way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. The smoother the rhythm, the more harmony within your system. Your heart is constantly speeding up and slowing down. When you take your pulse or when you use the heart sensor on gym equipment you are getting an average, rather than your HRV.
I was unable to capture the entire session on my phone, but you can see the speeding up/slowing down rhythm of my heart.
On The Language of Stress you can see a different picture of my use of technology. This time it's the emWave, a desktop unit that I like to use before I sit down to do any writing.
I do have some specials on these. If you're interested in the DIY of stress transformation or stress coaching, please get in touch.
Watch Graham Shaw's TED Talk video: Why people believe they can't draw.
The 10 Tips:
- Tip #10 - Live Your Life
- Tip #9 - Learn to Listen to Your Body
- Tip #8 - Use Tools and Gadgets
- Tip #7 - Build Your Team
- Tip #6 - Accentuate the Positive
- Tip #5 - Laugh and/or Smile
- Tip #4 - Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
- Tip #3 - Move/Exercise
- Tip #2 - Choose to Eat Well
- Tip #1 - Transform Stress
HeartMath is a registered trademark of the Institute of HeartMath.
emWave and Personal Stress Reliever are registered trademarks of Quantum Intech, Inc.
Inner Balance Trainer is a trademark of Quantum Intech, Inc.