Seasonal Upsurges of RA
If I can count on one thing when it comes to RA, it is the upswing in flaring when seasons change. For many of us, without fail, as one season ends and another begins, flaring ensues. What is so strange about this is the fact that weather, in general, does not impact my RA. That is to say, rainy weather versus dry weather does not make a difference. However, when spring is on the horizon, my RA inevitably reacts negatively. I have often wondered why this phenomenon exists, but I have no answer to it. And it is not just me. Our RA support group has discussed this and we all agree, that with each season change, our bodies react. I wonder if it is because as the climate changes and temperatures rise or fall, our immune systems react. They need to accommodate the change and that means an internal struggle often results. Then, by extension, RA flaring may result as our immune systems react.
How to manage seasonal RA flares
There are lots of theories around about why this happens and some seem plausible, while others seem a little less likely. Nonetheless, the key is coping with this and I have discovered a few things that help to ease this upsurge.
Have weather-appropriate clothing on hand
First of all, I know it is coming, so just having that knowledge, means I am more aware and therefore can do my best to be my healthiest and most vigilant during this time. For example, pay close attention to temperature differences from one day to the next, so that clothing choices, for instance, are more accurate. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has stated that the worst time for flus and colds is during the seasonal changes from winter to spring and summer to fall. Well those are the worst times for me in terms of flaring. I think because our bodies are so busy adjusting to the climate changes, they become more susceptible to joint discomfort and flaring. I try to check on the forecast every day before I decide what to wear, in the hopes that making the right choice might make even the slightest difference.
Mentally prepare for seasonal changes
Secondly, I think that seasonal changes often bring with them a mental adjustment as well. I know that going from summer to fall, my thoughts move from outdoor activities to the awareness that soon I will be indoors more, the daylight hours will be fewer, etc. We should not dismiss the psychological effects that this has on our RA. I will admit that as the last days of summer fade, it can be depressing knowing that early darkness and difficult weather are just around the corner. I try to offset this by focusing on the beauty of fall and the fun of wearing comfortable, cozy clothes. But these changes can translate into a disruption of the norm and that may bring with it flaring.
Practice mindfulness as a coping mechanism
Practicing mindfulness is another strategy to cope with seasonal effects. I have been practicing this for a few years now and it has made a significant difference in my overall management of RA. By trying to live in the moment, embracing the circumstances as they present themselves, you can largely offset the feeling of forced change that seasons bring with them. I try to start each day with a feeling of joy and positive anticipation of what the day holds in store for me.
So, if you experience the seasonal upsurges in RA that many of us do, do not despair. There are strategies to cope with and counter them. Using them can make the difference in how you enjoy the 4 seasons as they unfold.
When was your last flare?