8 Tips on Coping with Negative Emotions with Arthritis

Although arthritis can be only diagnosed thrCoping with Emotionsough the identification of physical symptoms like joint degeneration, there are a host of mental symptoms associated with it which can be just – and often more – difficult to deal with.

Just because two people have the same condition does not mean they will experience it in the same way. This is especially true on the emotional side of living with arthritis.

A recent survey by Arthritis Ireland found that the impact of arthritis on the emotional well-being of Irish people is significant, reducing their ability to participate in social activities, causing sadness and depression and ultimately leading to social isolation.

In response to this we have developed the Coping with Emotions information booklet and we also have our National Helpline which is available to anyone seeking support or information. Below are eight tips (taken from our booklet) on coping with negative emotions such as anxiety or depression.

1. Positive Mental Attitude

The first step in dealing with both the physical and emotional effects of arthritis is having a positive attitude as much as possible. It won’t always be easy. However, it is essential in managing your condition effectively that you are optimistic and positive about yourself, your future and your arthritis. It is important to remember that this is your condition and you control a lot of its effects.

2. Laughter

Laughing is a great way of making yourself feel better. When we laugh, feel-good chemicals are released in the brain, and these chemicals block pain and help us feel better. It’s not always easy to laugh or to keep a happy demeanour. You could keep a stack of comedy DVDs or books handy – anything that helps you see the funny side of things and lightens your mood.

3. Exercise

Regular exercise serves to benefit both the body and the mind. It is a good idea to develop an exercise programme with a doctor/friend or family member that is appropriate to your lifestyle. Regular exercise will serve to relieve stiffness, maintain or restore flexibility and improve your overall sense of well-being. Exercising is often more enjoyable when done with a family member or friend and they can also serve as your motivator when you may not be feeling up to it! Remember that Arthritis Ireland has a dedicated resource on exercise at www.arthritisandexercise.ie.

4. Massage

Massage can help relax the muscles and improve their condition by increasing the blood flow. This can provide temporary relief from localised pain. You could ask a partner/friend for a massage or go for a professional therapeutic message. Remember to get the approval of your health professional before you get any massage, as each person experiences their arthritis in a different way and the effect that massage has on them is different.

5. Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep restores your energy and improves your ability to manage your pain both physically and emotionally. It is important that both your bed and pillow are supportive to ensure your body is benefiting fully from the rest. Often a brief nap may be all you need to replenish your energy levels and rest your joints and mind.

6. Relaxation

Learning to relax your body and mind properly is essential in managing your pain with arthritis. When we are tense, our muscles compress our joints and as a result they hurt and the joints are painful. Developing the ability to relax can help you reverse these effects. Some of the more effective ways of relaxing may include deep breathing, meditation, walking or swimming. Everyone has different methods of winding down but it is particularly important for anyone affected by arthritis to find an outlet that will allow both their body and mind to rest regularly.

7. Treating Yourself 

Giving yourself the “feel good” factor is important for all of us but especially so when we may be feeling dragged down emotionally by our arthritis. When feeling low, it is important to remember you owe it to yourself to pick yourself up and do something kind for yourself. This might just mean sleeping for an extra hour or visiting a friend. The list is endless and so are the benefits!!

8. Asking for Help

Often people don’t know what they can or should do to support someone with arthritis, so it’s up to you to let them know and to discuss it openly with them. You could consider giving them some of Arthritis Ireland’s information leaflets, which contain information and advice on living with various forms of arthritis.

Sometimes it helps to talk to someone you don’t know. Arthritis Ireland’s helpline is manned by people who are living with arthritis and is the first of its kind in Ireland, providing vital emotional and practical support and information to people affected by arthritis.

For more tips on dealing with the mental impact of arthritis download our Coping with Emotions booklet. If you are looking for information or seeking support, call our helpline and speak to one of our volunteers on locall 1890 252846.

Fibrofella’s 2013 Resolutions

fibromyalgia patient

Peter Boyd, Fibrofella

Did you enjoy it? Did you even notice it was going on? I paid it no heed and was much the happier for it. 2012 came like a tonne of bricks and shattered my life to pieces but thankfully it disappeared with a whimper. Fear not that there is a ’13’ in this year, it can’t be worse than 2012 so if I have anything to do with it, 2013 is going to be a blast!

I wished my family a Happy New Year very early on December 31st. It was going to be an early night for me and I didn’t want to be disturbed by too many messages come the midnight hour. As I lay in bed, and just before I slipped off to sleep, I performed a little state of the nation chat with myself. I was always told ‘that it’s no problem talking to yourself, it’s only when you are answering back that you should start to worry’. Well I’m definitely gone over to the dark side, because not only did I answer back but I was having this discussion with myself out loud.

The first fella was very loud and domineering. He shouted and roared a long list of everything that went wrong in 2012. Things he did, things he should have done, things he shouldn’t and people who had upset or offended him throughout the year.

The second fella was a lot more timid. He kept trying to answer but couldn’t find a gap in Himself’s stream of consciousness. Like the young lad in school who has to hold one arm in the air with his other hand because the teacher hasn’t got to him yet.

Item after item, awful moments of new diagnoses followed by horrible incidents, things that went wrong and not forgetting the four mornings in a row Himself walked into his kitchen wall. The wall never moved but unfortunately spatial awareness, concentration and alertness are never good first thing in the morning.

Eventually, Himself paused for breath and He had some time for rebuttal. He agreed that, yes 2012 was an Annus Horribilis but in amongst it there had been some small flickers of light and even a little happiness.

He has learned about fibromyalgia and how to manage some symptoms. He volunteers and meets people who not only understand what He is going through but also show how to live better with any illness or symptoms that raise their heads. His family feel even closer to him than before and He thinks fibro has helped. The emotional rollercoaster He is on, and the depression He is suffering from so badly now, means He talks about his emotions more with his loved ones. As a result the rest of the family do the same and the bonds are much tighter for it.

New Year is traditionally a time for resolutions but as 2012 drew to a close in bed at 10pm both He and Himself finally agreed on something. Since very few people actually stick to their resolutions, they’ve decided to go for an easy and achievable resolution. In fact they’ve already succeeded in achieving it and as a result it won’t be too hard to stick to it for the long haul.

Before I go to bed each night, I have a quick recap of my day. Both He and Himself get a chance to speak and say their piece. Himself still hollers and roars about all the bad bits of the day and all the things left undone but, once that’s done, He gets a chance to talk too. He lowers his tired arm as teacher finally gives the nod so He can begin.

He says slowly and quietly, ‘well done fella, you did some great stretching this morning before you had your breakfast. Now isn’t that one small success a much better thought to try to fall asleep on?’, and even Himself cannot argue with that.

New Year resolutions don’t have to be massive or difficult. Simple and achievable goals are much better and give just as big a sense of accomplishment. Good luck with whatever resolutions you decide upon, and from both He and Himself, may we wish you a Happy (and pain-free) 2013!

Peter Boyd is a helpline volunteer and self-management leader. Follow his blog, Fibrofella, to read more of his posts. If you would like to contribute to the Arthritis Ireland blog then please email communications@arthritisireland.ie with your topic suggestions.