Living with a long-term condition like arthritis can be emotionally taxing. Coping with symptoms that impact daily life, and facing frequent pain can be difficult to accept, taking a toll on the mental wellbeing of an individual, and potentially leading to low mood and stress.
Looking after your health should mean that you manage both your physical and mental health, to enable you to live a fuller life. We have put together some helpful advice to help you manage your daily life with arthritis.
You can also visit our Mental Health Directory to find professional support in your local area, or have a look at our list of Wellbeing resources, including apps, recommended books and advice focusing specifically on covid-19.
Pacing your activities
If you have arthritis you may find that there are times when you feel exhausted and fatigued, so that everything you try to do is too much effort. To manage these times it is important not to overdo things during periods when you have more energy.
Here are some tips on pacing yourself throughout the week.
- Prioritise your activities – ask yourself whether this has to be done now? Can someone else help? Does it have to be done at all?
- Plan your week – make sure you have periods of rest and relaxation between the times when you have to complete a task. It is important to enjoy what you do, so try to incorporate things that make you feel good – socialising or enjoying a hobby.
- Adapt your way of working – find ways of changing how you do the things that cause you problems. Break tasks into smaller chunks and do something else in between. This can help with tiredness or pain. There are many gadgets in the marketplace that can help with specific tasks that you may find difficult – ask your GP to refer you to an occupational therapist or ask others how they manage specific tasks.
Sleep and arthritis
Many people with arthritis find that their sleep is disturbed because of pain, medication, worries or low mood. All of these things are related and having many disturbed nights can make pain feel worse and lead to frustration and lower mood.
Here are some tips to improve your sleep quality.
- Avoid coffee, tea and other drinks containing caffeine before bedtime, or even switch to decaffeinated drinks completely as caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you awake and reduce the quality of your sleep.
- Try to avoid alcohol before bed as although alcohol can help you feel more relaxed, it can disturb your sleep.
- Try to keep your bedroom cool and dark.
- Try to find a winding-down routine before bedtime such as having a bath or a warm milky drink.
- Try to avoid “blue light” before sleep such as the light from an e-book or tablet and try to avoid watching television in bed as this can also disturb sleep in some people.
- Try some gentle exercise in the evening such as a short walk to help you relax.
- Consider learning some gentle relaxation exercises or meditation.
- If you can’t sleep, don’t lie in bed worrying about it. Just get up and do something relaxing in another room such as reading or watching television until you feel sleepy, then try sleeping again.
Coping with depression
Feeling low from time to time is very common in people living with arthritis.
- Try to be positive about the pain you experience
Managing your pain puts you in a position of power. Follow our link to pain management to find out what coping strategies you can use to help.
- Increase your ‘feel good factor’ hormones
Endorphins are natural hormones produced by the body. Increasing your levels will help lift your mood. Exercise is an easy way to increase your endorphin levels.
- Socialise with other people
Feelings of isolation can be very common in those with arthritis as their life is not as active as it used to be. Try to get out of the house as often as possible and experience new situations. An exercise class or social group will help you meet new people. If you cannot get out of your house very much then phone a friend to have a chat. Internet messaging boards can put you in touch with like-minded people. We offer a message board facility and interactive member’s forum as one of the benefits of becoming a member of Arthritis Action. Our team are also here to help and will take time to support you.
Knowing where to find support for your mental health is not easy, so we have put together the Mental Health Directory to help you find available services in your area.
You can find out more on the effects of mental health when living with a long-term condition, like arthritis, by watching our recorded webinar ‘The effects of mental health and how to manage it’ on YouTube.