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Big Plans This Summer? Aim for Wellness.

Summertime can be fun as well as stressful: family get-togethers, road trips, day trips, BBQs and Fourth of July parties. Rheumatoid arthritis makes your life even more hectic. How can you keep it all together and find time for relaxation, or just some time for yourself?

This year, prioritize your wellness. According to the National Wellness Institute, “Mindfully focusing on wellness in our lives builds resilience and enables us to thrive amidst life’s challenges.” Wellness includes physical, emotional, spiritual and social well-being.

What does wellness mean for you? It means that taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your family, bills, housework or job. Wellness is an activity in and of itself. What choices will help you feel better and happier? What negative choices can you avoid?

Wellness means setting priorities that nourish your health and soul and dialing back on the activities (or people) that drain you of your mental and physical energy.

Does wellness really impact your RA? Wellness-based choices can have a big effect on RA. A recent study showed that people with RA who were overweight or obese were much less likely to achieve remission of their disease. Another study suggested that added stress and poor moods had a negative effect on RA activity, including an increase in joint symptoms and the likelihood of flares.

On the other hand, people who pay more attention to their wellness can feel the benefits. In one study conducted in the Netherlands, people with RA who went through stress management training for just a few weeks showed lower levels of certain inflammatory cytokines on their blood tests.

How do you improve your wellness? Who has time for that? It’s easier than you may think to set wellness goals. Here are a few ideas:

Block off time in your calendar for wellness activities. Set up appointments in your calendar to work on your wellness:

  • Schedule a walk in the park with a friend, your spouse or your dog.
  • Book an arthritis water exercise class at your local community center.
  • Set a “meeting” with yourself to do a yoga video, meditate or soak in a hot bath.

Mark your wellness activities in your online calendar as “busy.” Treat it as a business meeting—it’s the business of taking care of yourself.

Eat right, move more and choose well. Wellness includes both physical and emotional health. For better wellness, take small steps to nourish your body and soul:

  • Eat fresh, unprocessed foods. Include a variety of fruits and veggies and cut down on saturated fats, sodium and sugar by limiting processed foods. Fresh, whole foods are better for your heart, blood pressure and bowel function.
  • Stay active each day. Exercise has so many benefits for your RA. You can improve muscle mass, range of motion (ROM), heart health, strength and overall physical function. Follow your doctor’s or physical therapist’s recommendations for aerobic activities (like walking or swimming), ROM stretches and muscle-building moves.
  • Gentle exercises like yoga may boost your wellness. In a recent national survey, high percentages of people said they felt that practicing yoga improved their well-being, lowered their stress, and improved their sleep. Before you start ANY new exercise, talk to your rheumatologist to make sure it’s safe for your body.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking tobacco is bad for your heart and lungs, but it’s also very bad for your immune system and actually worsens inflammation. Smoking also makes your RA treatments less effective. So quit smoking, or get help quitting if you’ve tried before and couldn’t kick the habit.

Consider coaching. Wellness coaches are experts who focus on helping you overcome barriers to better wellness. One study showed that people who took a 12-week wellness program with a coach reported improvements in their quality of life, stress and mood. Coaches and wellness programs require a fee, but some employers offer it as a benefit. Some health insurers may offer wellness services to members, so check your policy’s benefits.

Use technology to stay organized. The myVectra app helps you keep track of important things related to your RA: symptoms, sleep, exercise, medical appointments and your prescription information. You can also track your updated Vectra® score—a personalized number that combines 12 major markers of RA disease activity—right in the app. Go to the Apple Store or Google Play to download the new myVectra app, or visit VectraScore.com.

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