I am recently retired from a full-time career I had for nearly 24 years. Why does that matter now and how does it relate to RA? Well, first of all, my last week was far more emotional than I anticipated. I had been planning for this for nearly a year, hiring my replacement, training her, putting everything in place to make the transition for everyone as smooth as possible. I was so busy that I failed to realize how emotional the final days would be which often leads to RA flaring. Add to that the weight of ensuring everything was in place, my sleep habits and exercise routine have been completely out of whack for months with the end result being a flare of sorts, for several weeks now. Nothing too serious but just enough to keep me from getting good rest, good sleep and good exercise. As we know, that is a surefire recipe for flaring.
Planning for the emotional impact of change on RA
I can now see how, in my effort to plan for everything and everyone around me, I did not really plan for how this would emotionally impact me or how it would affect my RA. I felt rudderless and even mildly depressed for a bit afterward. Not so much because of the work itself, but more the loss of contact with long term colleagues, the daily routine, the purpose. I thought I had it all figured out, down to the last detail. What I did not count on, was how the exit pieces, not related to work tasks, would manifest in joint pain. Since the onset of RA, one thing that has always been important to my management has been to keep my days as routine as possible. That is not to say that I did not have a wonderful, full life, filled with many activities, etc. but I do need to have some regularity to my days, especially in terms of sleep, exercise, diet, and rest. That all went haywire during my last year of work and even for a time afterward. I am just now getting a handle on that since I have less structure to my days. I am re-committed to my 3-day a week swim routine, my 2-3 day a week Tai Chi practice, meditating at least 4 days a week with a goal of 6 in the near future. As to diet, I can now plan much better for healthier eating since I am not in a hectic job that demands working irregular hours at times. It has taken some time but things are beginning to fall into place. I plan to continue to add structure back into my life since that helps me to maintain good health habits and therefore, better management of my RA.
Preparing for life changes and their impact on RA
What has this taught me? We all face change throughout our lives and I am not sure we fully understand how that affects our RA. We pay attention to how it affects our work, our relationships, our finances, our social lives, but what about our health? RA is already chaotic enough without introducing more chaos into our lives! In retrospect, I should have planned better for the impact my retirement would have on my RA. The complicated emotions wrapped around life changes like retirement need to be addressed just as much as the more concrete things like medication changes, etc. The fact is, we change lanes throughout our lives and if we are going to successfully manage our RA along that highway of life, we need to plan ahead and plan carefully to ensure a smooth trip!
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