An unfolded map sitting on a surface. coming from the map are trees. In the closest corner is a tree stump with a bright red question mark floating above it.

Are You Seeing the Forest for the Trees?

So lately, I have had trouble focusing my attention on RA management when it comes to sorting out how to deal with some issues I am now attempting to address. 

I recall this happening in the past and it is a tendency we sometimes encounter that reminds me of the old adage of not seeing the forest (in this case, your overall RA management) for the trees (all of the day-to-day cumulative issues we encounter).

Too much focus on one issue

Of late, I have had several issues - perhaps related, perhaps not (a whole other article on this topic) - that have pulled my attention away from the need to continue to monitor my overall RA management.

What I mean by that is there are times when a specific symptom or issue (the tree) takes so much energy and attention that you begin to let slip your broader perspective of RA management (the forest).

Neglecting other items that need our attention

Why does that matter? It matters because when we exert all of our energies (both mental and physical) on a single situation, it may mean we are not attending to the myriad of other items that need our focus. 

For instance, I am having an issue right now that pretty much dominates my thoughts. I struggle to even consider what I need to be doing with regard to the rest of my RA management. 

The danger is that I am letting slide some of the other very important aspects of controlling my  RA. This could spiral into a serious flare if I am not careful to step back to “see the forest.”

We must also see the big picture

To be clear, I am not talking about a situation in which you must focus on a specific situation for a limited amount of time, like a surgery or treatment change. 

Rather, I am talking about a situation in which your dedication to it becomes all-consuming. Not only is that not tenable in the long haul but, even in the short-term, it is exhausting and harmful. Balancing the needs of managing RA is a constant challenge and one that requires we do our best to see the broad picture.

How to regain focus

So then, how do we keep our eyes on the forest while traversing among the trees?

First of all, it means taking a long deep breath, both literally and figuratively. By doing so, we almost immediately calm down, which in turn allows us to step back and re-focus.

Address what's taking up your energy

Next, I made a list of what I needed to do to address the BIG issue that was taking all of my energy. 

By doing this, I could systematically see what I needed to do, thus organizing my thoughts and relaxing my attention. This led to me being able to once again draw my focus to more general RA concerns.

Share concerns with your care team

I also realized that I needed to share my concerns about the “single tree” with my care team so that they could help me put it in perspective. Their objective advice and support were crucial to my ability to gain a more balanced viewpoint.

Getting fixated isn't hard to imagine with RA

Following this process moves us away from being single-minded and allows a more overall perspective, the key to good RA management.

After all, we have so many issues we must deal with on a day-to-day basis, allowing our attention to become so fixated is not hard to imagine. That said, managing that tendency is another component to successfully navigating RA.


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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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