I Can Do This!: RA Affirmations
We all know the little blue engine that pulled the train up the mountain by saying to itself, “I think I can. I think I can.” It turns out that engine had some excellent coping skills in facing hardship. Those of us with rheumatoid arthritis are contending with a different sort of mountain in addressing the pain, fatigue, and inflammation this disease entails. As the challenges of living with this condition can be depressing, especially during flares, I have found that using affirmations is a powerful method of getting my mind back on a positive track. Here are a few statements that are helpful to me.
I can do this. While I appreciate the little engine’s use of a mantra, I need something more concrete than “I think I can.” When faced with a physical challenge the pain and fatigue of RA make daunting, I try to get my thoughts away from thinking about how much it hurts and how frustrated I am, and instead repeat to myself, “I can do this.” Whether trying to climb a flight of stairs or carry groceries into the house, this phrase gives me the encouragement I need. On those mornings when the stiffness and fatigue even make standing up feel like an ordeal, I use this affirmation just to get out of bed. When I repeat, “I can do this,” over and over, I get myself out of the negative thoughts of wondering why simple things have to be so hard, and instead feel empowered to handle whatever challenge is before me.
I find things to smile about. When I’m in a flare, or even while dealing with my typical day-to-day levels of pain, I can find myself focusing on all the negative impacts pain has on my mood, productivity, and social life, as well as the fear of potential implications for my future. To get myself out of those thoughts, I say to myself, “I find things to smile about.” This serves as a reminder that there is indeed always something to smile about. Whether it’s a gentle breeze on a lovely day, a hummingbird spied from my window, funny or sweet words from the mouth of a child, loving thoughts of the people who matter to me, or the things most Americans take for granted such as climate control and running water, which are limited luxuries in many parts of the world, there is always something that is pleasant, beautiful or amusing.
I feel good giving my body what it needs. Sometimes I am frustrated that my body is “high needs” in comparison to most people my age. However, it feels far better to congratulate myself for taking care of myself, rather than ruminate on how I wish things were different. Telling myself, “I feel good giving my body what it needs” can help me enjoy how comforting it can feel to lie down on a heating pad after a long day, it can motivate me through mild pain experienced while exercising, and it can make me feel grateful while giving myself an injection or paying for my prescriptions at the pharmacy. Sure, if I were a genie I would wish my RA away. However, since I do have a disease, giving myself a pat on the back for meeting my body’s needs goes a long way in feeling better about my situation.
I can control my thoughts. RA often makes me feel like I don’t have control over my life. Since it’s an unpredictable disease, it can strike when I least expect it. When cancelling plans or giving up on chores because I’m in too much pain to do anything other than lie down, I can feel at the mercy of this disease. Yet, I have found it incredibly empowering to remind myself that while I can’t control what’s happening in my body, I can control what’s happening in my mind. I always have the option of catching myself thinking negative thoughts, and replacing those with positive affirmations. Sometimes it’s helpful if I start by telling myself, “I can control my thoughts.” This statement serves as a gateway to more positive thinking, and it helps me refocus on empowering thoughts whenever I find myself slipping into negativity.
I am grateful for what my body can do. It’s easy to focus on the things I can’t do. Every day I see or read about activities that my joints ache just thinking about. When I find myself dwelling on the limitations RA puts on my body, I stop and tell myself, “I’m grateful for what my body can do.” As my symptoms fluctuate, this can change on a daily basis. There are days when my three year old asks me to pick him up, and I’m able to. That is something to celebrate. However, even on days when I can’t pick him up, when even having him on my lap is too painful, I can still hold his hand and kiss his head and tell him I love him. My body is capable of many things, and this glass-half-full reframe helps me remember that.
I am thankful for being alive today. Even on the most painful days, I am alive. I’m able to tell the people I love that they matter to me. I’m able to look outside and see the sky and hope for better days ahead. Reminding myself that my life is not to be taken for granted by saying, “I am thankful for being alive today” grounds me in gratitude for even the fundamentals of existence.
I am well, I am fortunate, and life is good. I have started using this phrase multiple times a day. It’s just as handy after a frustrating day at work or when mulling over financial stresses as it is when I’m feeling down about my RA. Even when I’m not feeling well, when I say to myself, “I am well, I am fortunate, and life is good,” I always smile. There’s the saying “you have to believe it to achieve it.” Sometimes telling myself that all is well is the stepping stone I need to actually turn the corner and begin to make these words a reality.