At the end of the year, many of us take some well-deserved time off to celebrate the holidays with family and friends: baking and decorating cookies with the kids, shopping for last-minute gifts, or watching football. It’s a time to reflect, relax and replenish your spirit.
No matter what you do during the holiday season, we often emerge with a renewed sense of purpose and ambitions to make healthy changes in the New Year. New Year’s resolutions can focus on your health, finances, exercise routine or your cluttered basement. Each January, we resolve to change our habits or conquer lofty personal goals—but most of us give up by mid-March.
Resolve to Improve Wellness
The most common New Year’s resolutions people make each January focus on health and wellness, according to recent Nielsen surveys. What is wellness, exactly? According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness means “the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” Wellness is a focus on improving your whole self: body, emotion, and spirituality. Wellness may be more challenging when you have RA, because you already have so many things to manage: prescription medications, injections or infusions, doctor’s appointments, blood tests, insurance forms, bills, pain and fatigue, and emotional ups and downs.
Another way to describe wellness is resilience. When you’re resilient, you manage challenges more effectively. You develop ways to deal with your physical or emotional stresses in a positive way. In 2019, researchers surveyed adults living with RA and found that these individuals created strategies to be more resilient as they coped with the challenges of their disease, from treatments to symptoms to dealing with the healthcare system. To achieve resilience, people with RA seek social support from family and friends, pursue activities they enjoy, reframe negative thoughts with positive alternatives, stay flexible and, most of all, laugh as much as possible.
Ways to Improve Wellness
Could you embrace new habits that boost your wellness? Or discard worn-out routines and attitudes that have made you less resilient? As you plan for your new year, consider these wellness-enhancing goals:
Strategize ways to de-stress. Emotional or psychological stress may start in your mind, but it can quickly affect your body. In a 2017 study of 274 people with RA, 86.1% reported that psychological stress and mood disorders were the main trigger for their joint symptoms.
Can you take steps to curb stress in your life? It may mean saying “no” to requests from family or friends that are more than you can handle—and not feeling guilty about it. Or you may find that you have less stress when you spend more time doing activities you really enjoy with people who lift your spirits. In the New Year, resolve to put yourself and your wellness first. Prioritize relaxation. Stressful situations happen, and you can’t always prevent stress. But you can create new ways to react to it.
Prioritize sleep. When your joints hurt, it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep or any sleep at all. Some estimates say that 80% of people with arthritis have sleep problems. One study found that 10.2 million adults with arthritis have sleep disturbances—they don’t typically sleep through the night.
How can you get the rest your body needs? Develop a sleep-focused bedtime routine, which could include:
- Set a bedtime and try to stick to it each night.
- Don’t go to sleep with the TV on.
- When it’s time for sleep, turn off your electronic devices, especially your smartphone.
• If you wake up in the middle of the night for any reason, don’t pick up your phone or tablet, and don’t look at your clock. In fact, get rid of your bedside clock, or turn it around or cover it when you go to sleep.
Explore mind-body activities. Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and improve sleep. If you’re bored with gym workouts or walking around your neighborhood, check out mind-body exercises like yoga or tai chi. Both workouts involve gentle, flowing movements that offer multiple benefits to your muscle tone, flexibility and inner peace.
Recent studies show that yoga can improve joint range of motion and strength in people with arthritis, and regular yoga workouts can also be heart-healthy and improve your balance. Research also shows that tai chi can be beneficial for people with RA, improving your mood and quality of life. Take a yoga or tai chi class in your area to learn how to properly perform the poses. Both yoga and tai chi allow you to unplug your thoughts, breathe, relax, and focus on the movements or soft music.
Strengthen your muscles. Many people with RA have muscle weakness, so building up and maintaining your muscle strength and tone is important for your health and function. Stronger muscles support your joints for more stability.
Talk with your rheumatologist about whether you’re healthy enough to do strength training and how to get started. There are many ways to build muscle strength, including weight lifting under a trainer’s guidance. If pumping iron in a gym is not your thing, try warm-water workouts at your local indoor pool instead. The water creates resistance as you move through it to build muscle tone and strength.
Keep track of your RA disease activity with Vectra®. At your regular visit with your rheumatologist, measure your inflammatory disease activity with Vectra to help you and your doctor reach your RA disease goals. Vectra is a multi-biomarker molecular blood test that provides one simple, personalized score that you and your healthcare team can track over time. For more information, go to VectraScore.com