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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.

Routine activities

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.

Sleep patterns

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.

Nan

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

Comments

  • Carla Kienast
    4 months ago

    I love this. A local pro athlete was interviewed about the fact that he ate the same diet every day during training and regular season. He responded that he and his nutritionist worked it out, but more importantly, he asked the reporter how he could expect his body to perform the same way every day if he didn’t treat it the same. We tend to think of “new” being significant change — diet, medication, sleep. Our bodies, and our RA, react to changes on a molecular level — a little extra stress, something a bit off in our diet, not quite enough sleep. These “new” elements are enough to throw us off. Thanks for the great reminder that routines help us be our best.

  • Mafalda
    5 months ago

    Nan, thank you so much for an article that tells things the way they are. I feel just like you do and -although I’m an upbeat kind of person, considering my adverse circumstances- I get really bothered by articles full of hoopla and false expectations.
    Looking forward to reading more from you.

  • betharooski
    5 months ago

    Thanks you for sharing your trials and tribulations to help others! I am noticing that even now I am getting antsy thinking of how some upcoming major life changes are going to affect me. Good or bad changes are part of life. Boy—I didn’t really appreciate my boring routines until tidal waves roll in and knock me under for a spell. You can either dog paddle or sink. I think I’m gonna try to “keep swimming”! Ask your grandkids about that famous line from Dory! Take care and feel the support that comes from this site.

  • swoocher
    5 months ago

    I couldn’t have said it better! That is exactly how I feel. Every change in routine seems to come with dire consequences. The last two years have been especially difficult for me. I lost my husband in July,2017, and three months later was hit by a car while walking my dog. To say that my life has changed would be an understatement. Everything became worse. I’m grateful to be alive, but there is so much I cannot do any more, that sometimes it’s hard to get through the day.

  • betharooski
    5 months ago

    Hi! I’m sorry that you have had some difficult things…and are still adjusting to everything. I hope that you find strength and support. Best wishes

  • TLTrujillo
    5 months ago

    I couldn’t agree more with the keeping a routine. I got married March 30th and has been feeling pretty bad for several months before, and ever since. I realize that it’s because my whole routine has been disrupted, and I’m finding it hard to get into a new one. It’s hard to get my new husband to understand that routine is very important. And it doesn’t help that we are traveling, quite often, three and a half hours away to ready his house for sale. We try to keep a good sense of humor about it though and say that we’re getting the in sickness part out of the way in regards to our vows. LOL!

  • carol quiggins
    5 months ago

    Good read Nan. Thank you. I would have to agree with you on keeping a routine. Everything seems smoother with one.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    5 months ago

    Oh please do not tell my wife that a new bicycle isn’t better than an old one. I always hope she will agree that I need a new one.

    In fact I will send you a list of things that I might need you to agree to say are better if they are new. Stuff like computers, drone’s, automobiles, RC Cars – you know just the essentials.

  • betharooski
    5 months ago

    I appreciate your humor! Any giggle that I can get is a wonderful thing! When I had cancer I was told to relax my brain from worrying and find some comic relief. It helps and is worthy of trying for miserable diseases. Thanks for adding your comments with a flavor of human kindness and laughter

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