New Does Not Necessarily Mean Better
I recall thinking at one point in my life that anything new was better or at least an improvement. Having RA has shown me otherwise. New also means adjusting to change, stress, and sometimes a decline in my condition.
When dealing with RA, I find routine is often the best way to manage my RA. By that, I mean consistency. Whether it be with medication, physical activity, sleep, social events, etc. The more I keep to my routine, the better. So when something new is introduced, it disrupts that pattern and often brings with it stress and even flaring at times.
Introducing new routines
Medication or treatment regimen
If the change is a medication, it may mean even more than that: side effects, adjusting to the new medication in terms of effectiveness, etc. I have to admit, there was a time when starting a new medication actually seemed great. I had high hopes for immediate relief, thought the adjustment would be seamless, etc. Only to discover that the time lapse for effectiveness was more than I imagined. Not to mention the very likely possibility of a fight with my insurance over the coverage or lack thereof. With all of that in mind, I have learned to really appreciate no change when it comes to medication, unless absolutely necessary. Even then, I dread it.
Change in my activity is another red flag. I really function best when I am doing routine activities on a very regular basis. My Tai Chi and swimming are great and, as long as I keep them up, I am good. But stopping or changing them often means stiffness and pain. The lesson here is to keep consistent movement in your life so that subtle changes may be OK. It is the big ones that often bring with them pain and flaring. It also means sorting out what activities work for you. I cannot cook anymore because the repetition of fine motor movements is a disaster for my hands. I know that and have adjusted my life accordingly. If I am tempted to introduce a new activity, I do so slowly and with care. I carefully gauge whether this makes sense or not, and then decide to keep it or discard it.
Social commitments and activities
Social commitments and activities are really tough to keep consistent. New invitations to parties and get-togethers are flattering and fun, so it is difficult to say no. I think the best we can do here is to carefully plan our social calendars, trying not to overextend as much as possible. I find that the holidays represent the toughest challenges in this arena. For many years, I hosted a Christmas Eve open house. I was often exhausted and in pain for days afterward. I finally decided to stop doing it and I never looked back. Since then, the holidays are so much more pleasant and a lot less stressful! Our friends and family are well aware of my RA, and they have been nothing but supportive of my decisions when it comes to social activities.
When reflecting on sleep, I suggest that doing new patterns in terms of bedtime, etc. be kept to a minimum to avoid the inevitable effects of sleep disruption. I rest and sleep best when I am able to stick to my bedtime routine. Sometimes, that is really tough but the more consistent you are with it the better you will sleep and the more manageable your RA will be.
New is often considered better in our culture but for those of managing RA, it may be that the tried and true are more effective in our management of RA.
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