RA and Winter
So here I am looking out my window at a fresh snowfall, single digit degrees and wind trying it's best to blind my view. As stunning as it is, I am well aware that this time of year brings with it some unique challenges for those of us with RA.
The winter season and rheumatoid arthritis
The cold is a benefit for me and my RA
For many, simply coping with the cold is a challenge. I happen to be one of the lucky ones who actually does better in the cold. I find heat and humidity much more difficult. But for lots of us, the cold simply penetrates our bones and makes us even more uncomfortable. It is crucial that we dress for the season.
How to manage winter living with RA
Wear proper and sufficient clothing for the season
My winter wardrobe primarily consists of velour, fleece, corduroy and sweatshirts! Throw in knee high socks and fur-lined boots and slippers and I am all set! I have several coats, hats, scarves and gloves for every occasion and temperature so that I am sure to be wearing what makes the most sense on any given winter day. I would much rather be overdressed and peel clothes than be shivering because I wore something too light weight.
I do find that since RA when I get a chill it takes a hot bath or some time under my electric blanket to make it go away. Once we get chilled we tend to tense up our muscles and that makes our joints angry, often resulting in unnecessary and avoidable pain.
Be mindful of traveling, even just locally
Getting to where we need to go can be a real challenge in the winter thanks to winter road issues, etc. I try to schedule any "elective" appointments (dental checkups for instance) as far beyond winter as I can get. In that way I reduce those worries.
I find that here in Vermont the plows get out as soon as possible in the AM but till they get to my street it may be 10 AM. So I try to make my appointments for late morning or early afternoon, giving them time to get them clear and yet before it gets dark and the roads freeze up again. Shop when the roads are clear and the surfaces treated and combine your trips to the grocery store and pharmacy. Less trips mean less chance to encounter bad weather conditions.
Continue to exercise, even if it's getting chilly
Exercising can be a challenge in the winter, especially if you are the outdoor type but not into winter sports. Might be a good time to take up swimming or yoga or Tai Chi or all of those!
It can be so tempting to hibernate and become a couch potato in the winter but it is crucial for your joints and muscles and overall well-being to stay physically active ALL YEAR ROUND. A nice walk on clear surfaces on a brisk winter day can be invigorating and refreshing as long as you are dressed properly and you are certain the conditions outside are conducive to exercise.
Embrace the winter
Focus on indoor activities
Embracing winter by pursuing some activities you may put on hold other times is another coping strategy. I love to curl up by my fireplace and read a good book. Clean out some closets or drawers and feel good about the time indoors! My husband and I go to lots of theater productions in the winter since it is less than 2 miles away and really perks up our evenings. We love movies all year but in the winter they provide a keener sense of respite from the dark days as they take us to another place and time. Getting together with friends, playing some card or board games is yet another way to pass the time indoors, laughing and enjoying the season.
Attitude is half the battle with most of what we are asked to handle in our lives so having a good one can be the difference in enjoying winter or being miserable. Choose the positive attitude and enjoy the benefits of this season!
Has having RA put a hold on your ambitions?