One of the least helpful things you can say to someone who is experiencing stress is “just relax”. Yes, we know stress is bad for us. However, when we’re stuck in that stressful moment, bringing the zen vibes and finding our happy place just isn’t that simple. It really is important to try to control the stress in our lives because stress can mess with our sleep, cause weight gain, and make us miserable.
Stress brings even more bad news to arthritis sufferers, as it can actually result in a worsening of symptoms. While there are a number of different arthritis ointment treatment options, such as CBD-infused topical creams and ointments, and over-the-counter pain-relieving/anti-inflammatory drugs, reducing stress levels may play an important role in the management of arthritis pain and symptoms.
How stress can worsen arthritis symptoms
Stress is good for us in small doses. It can increase our focus during an exam, or help to keep us on high alert when we’re watching horror movies. However, chronic psychological stress affects our ability to control inflammation, which has a direct impact on the pain felt by arthritis sufferers. What’s more, an arthritis diagnosis itself can prove very stressful, as an individual must come to terms with treatment options, lifestyle changes, and pain management.
Even though the link between lower stress levels and reduced arthritis pain has been established, it’s not like arthritis sufferers (or anyone, really) can flick a switch to turn off the daily stresses that work, finances, and families can cause in our lives. Stress can be difficult to manage, but there are some tips and tricks you can use to help control and reduce the amount of stress in your life.
Here, we will discuss some of the most effective methods of managing the inevitable stresses that life brings.
#1. Never underestimate the power of exercise
Physical activity can work wonders when you’re feeling stressed. The endorphins released during and after exercise are great natural combatants for stress, and regular physical activity can significantly reduce your stress levels, improve your sleep, and help to keep your weight in check. Exercise isn’t always easy when you’re dealing with arthritis, but it can help to reduce arthritis pain and increase mobility and movement. Just make sure you stick to non-weight bearing activities such as swimming, yoga, walking or cycling.
#2. Keep an active social life
Having friends around helps to reduce stress on a number of levels. Friends are great sounding boards, and will often spend hours listening to you complain about the stresses of your job or relationship if you bribe them a coffee or beer. Just the act of venting or releasing will help you feel more relaxed – there’s nothing like talking through your problems to make them feel more manageable. What’s more, there’s also evidence to suggest that loneliness can cause physical pain – which is certainly not something that arthritis sufferer needs more of.
#3. Literally take a deep breath
If you find yourself in an acutely stressful situation, such as being stuck in gridlock traffic when you’re already running late, breathing deeply can help to lower your stress levels. You can practice deep breathing while you’re standing, sitting, or lying down – all you need to do is place one hand on your stomach and hold the other over your chest while you breathe in slowly. Hold your breath for a moment (not too long – just a pause), then breathe out again. Keep going until you feel your muscles loosen and become more relaxed. Closing your eyes can also help, but this is not recommended if you’re behind the wheel…
#4. Don’t skimp on sleep
Getting a good night’s rest can be difficult when you’re experiencing stress, but it’s very important for our bodies to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to more stress, irritability, lack of focus and decreased productivity. Sleeping for 8 hours a day (as difficult as that may be for some people) can reduce levels of stress, and also helps to improve cardiovascular health and curb depression. What’s more, research suggests that individuals who sleep for less than 6 hours a night have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their bloodstream than those who get more rest, which could result in a worsening of arthritis symptoms.
Reducing stress levels can have a number of positive health benefits, but is especially important for individuals suffering from arthritis pain. By learning to lower and control stress levels, arthritis sufferers may experience reduced pain, increased mobility, and most importantly, a more positive outlook on life.