Following a Routine Does Not Mean You Are in a Rut
At first thought, one might think that doing things in a routine way would lead to a feeling of being in a rut. It could, but it need not. You can follow a routine and still have a rut-free life!
Rut versus routine
For me, being in a rut means I am not able to step outside of my circumstances and embrace anything new or challenging. Following a routine means establishing ways to move through my life that allow me to feel stable and secure. With a disease like RA, with all of its chaos and unpredictability, a routine has saved me on many occasions.
How routine can help manage RA
When I speak of following a routine, I am referring to things like sleeping patterns, eating habits, physical activities, medication protocols, etc. When these are disrupted, I often find myself flaring or, at least, less comfortable.
Bed time routine & sleep hygiene
Take sleeping, for example. It is not always easy, but when I follow a pretty standard routine for bedtime, I sleep so much better and my RA is more controlled. When I have nights in a row where I stay up too late, vary my bedtime, etc., the following days are miserable.
The same is true for physical activities. I need to move my body to stay joint healthy. When I go days in a row with little to no movement, I pay the price with pain and stiffness. I have to move to keep my joints from reacting with pain and stiffness.
Adhering to RA medications
Medication protocols are crucial as well. I follow a routine as to when I take my medications as well as what ones I take. Once again, varying from this routine may lead to a flare or other unpleasant outcome. Sticking to the same time of day may help to avoid some nasty side effects.
The most difficult one for me to follow is eating habits. Yet, when I do, I feel better. Perhaps it is the fact that our stomachs have to contend with a variety of medications. When I venture too far from healthy food choices, my RA often negatively reacts. So, I try to stay in the general wheelhouse of healthy foods and it does seem to help. These are just a few examples of “routines” that I follow. Each of us has others that make a difference in our individual management of RA.
Finding a routine that works
So how is this different from being in a rut? Well, within each of these areas, there is room for choice and options. For example, when it comes to healthy eating, there is a myriad of choices so one need not settle into a rut. Likewise, when it comes to physical activities, you will discover that within that area you have ways to keep it from getting stale. For example, I am an avid swimmer but I vary my “routine” frequently. One day I may focus on strength training with aqua weights and another day I may choose to do laps. Or I may do multiple activities in the water. I try to keep it varied to maintain my interest. This also allows for some experimenting. So, if Tai Chi works for you, maybe gentle yoga will too.
Being open to trying new routines
There is no reason not to try different options along the journey. Being in a rut means not being willing to look beyond present circumstances and by no means is that a recommendation. Variety is truly the spice of life, and managing RA with a routine does not preclude allowing for variation and the joy it brings.
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