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Morning Reset

Never a morning person, living with rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease [RA/RD] shifted the start of the day from non-preferred to a downright challenge.

Experiencing RA morning stiffness

Morning is often a hard time for people with RA/RD, as a common symptom of this disease is morning stiffness. Joints often feel a little achier and stiffer upon waking, and the length and severity of this symptom ebbs and flows with disease activity. Some mornings I feel just a little stiff, whereas upon waking during a flare I need to do range of motion exercises in my bed in order to help lessen the stiffness.

Difficulty getting rest due to joint pain

This would make it harder to get out of bed even after a good night’s sleep, but RA/RD can make it really tough to sleep well. The pressure of lying in one position can incite protests in those joints, leading to lots of tossing and turning. It’s also hard to relax into slumber when in a lot of pain. When I am in a flare I usually take a muscle relaxer, and occasionally take a prescription pain medicine, and the side effects of these drugs coupled with the inadequate sleep make for groggy mornings.

RA fatigue is also an issue

Fatigue is also a problematic symptom of RA/RD. Even if I’ve managed to get adequate rest, fatigue can make me feel tired all the way to my bones. Caffeine does little to cut through the heavy fog of fatigue, and forcing myself to push through a day while fatigued feels painful in and of itself.

The combination of these factors, sometimes occurring in isolation and at other times all piling on at the same time, have made mornings my least favorite time of day. If I had a choice, I would stay in bed for at least an hour after waking. However, that doesn’t fit into my schedule as a full-time working mom who has to get herself and her kids ready and out the door by 7:30 am each weekday.

How I make mornings better

Music has long been my morning ally as having loud, energetic tunes help me shift gears from “neutral” to “drive,” albeit not in “zero to sixty miles per hour” terms. In addition, over the past few months I’ve found a new morning strategy that helps the rest of my day go more smoothly: a morning reset.

How does the morning reset work?

Here’s how it works. Step 1: Get through my morning routine. Step 2: Reset.

Step 1: I wake up, often hitting “snooze” a couple of times, and then spend another 20 or so minutes in bed, trying to shake off the mental cobwebs by checking email and news on my phone and trying to ease the physical morning stiffness by rolling ankles and wrists, bending and straightening knees, curling my toes and opening and closing fists. Then I get out of bed, make coffee and if I’m not in a lot of pain, do a few yoga stretches. Once my coffee is made, I wake up my kids, crank up the tunes, and set about trying to ensure the three of us are presentable and have whatever items we need for our day at school/work. I drop them off at school and arrive at work, often feeling flustered from the rush of morning activity when my body really wanted to remain in bed.

Step 2: Reset. In the past, I would park and get out of my car and into my office as quickly as I could. Still feeling flustered from the morning, I’d start my workday feeling off-kilter and hurried. A few months ago, I started using a meditation app (I use Headspace, but there are many options for highly-rated meditation apps). It includes guided meditations in various lengths, with the shortest being only three minutes long. Now, once I arrive at my parking spot, I take a moment to celebrate the achievement of getting through the morning. Next, I do a three-minute meditation (unless I’ve somehow managed to arrive at work early, in which case I may opt for a five-minute track). I sit in my car, close my eyes, and go through the guided meditation.

The benefits of taking time to pause

Taking this time to pause has made a huge difference for me. Now, when I arrive at my office I have a sense of calm, purpose, and control. I used to feel that I was just surviving by making it through a morning, but now I feel empowered and give myself credit for completing my morning routine. I don’t feel frenzied, and rather feel more clear and ready to begin the workday.

It’s amazing what a difference three minutes can make, but I’ve found this is because each time I practice meditation it deepens the impact that even a short session can have. While I can’t control how much inflammation or pain I wake up with, I can control whether or not I take a moment to feel the weight of my body, listen to the sounds around me, feel the air on my skin, and pay attention to my breath. In choosing to take this time to reset each morning, I reclaim some control over my life. In feeling calmer and at peace, I am far more prepared to take on the rest of the day.

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

  • miaj
    6 days ago

    Hi Tamara — thanks for the article. I agree 100%! A little while ago I started setting my alarm earlier to give myself a ‘snooze’ buffer. Taking extra time to actually ‘get out of bed’ rather than leaping out at the last minute is a lot better I find.

    I do try and avoid looking at email or social media first thing in the morning though as I think it messes with my brain if I start on the mental treadmill before my body is properly working. I normally use that wake-up time for a mediation practice, which means I can do 10-15 mins and then get going in a more calm and relaxed state (similar to what you do when you stop at work).

    A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought meditation could have such significant effects, but I’m sure I can feel my brain rewiring itself — miraculously so!

    I can’t imagine how you do everything for yourself and 2 kids — my wife and I have two dogs and as I’m last to leave the house just settling them for the day is hard enough for me! 🙂

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 days ago

    Hi miaj,

    Thanks so much for sharing about what your mornings look like for you. I agree completely about meditation being a far healthier way to start the day than checking email. As I continue practicing meditation (I’ve been doing it about 8 months, and like you, have been amazed at how significant the effects have been), hopefully I’ll be able to become more alert without checking email from bed. It is a good goal!

    Thanks for being here and sharing your experiences! And thanks for the kind words – some days are better than others, and some days I “do everything” and some days I am able to do very little. The kids (7 and 9 year olds) are now trained at getting themselves ready with just a few reminders, so it’s a lot easier than it was when they were younger. Every day is an adventure though!

    All the best,
    Tamara

  • Susie Que
    6 days ago

    I’m a morning person, my parents were, all six siblings are. If stiff but I know once I get moving I will feel better. I’ve had 6 spinal fusions so bed is not my friend. I get up and walk for a few minutes a couple times at night, that might be why I’m not as stiff as others. Thanks for all your wonderful articles. You have no idea how much they mean to sufferers. Thank you!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 days ago

    Hey Susie Que,

    Thank you so much for sharing that! One of the things I love most about this online community is learning how different people are, even when coping with the same disease. Many of us with RA have a hard time getting out of bed, and you have a hard time staying in bed, and because you shared that other people who also have a hard time being in bed will feel they aren’t alone with that challenge. Thank you!

    Thank you too for your kind words. It “fills my bucket” to hear that anything I write is helpful to anyone in pain. Thank you!

    Wishing you all the best,
    Tamara

  • Diann400
    6 days ago

    Mornings are tough my day usually starts at 3 am I try and stretch my feet and ankles and the cramps take place. Middle finger and ring fingers on each hand won’t open . I have to pry my hands open . I am a real sight. I moved to the guest room so I don’t disturb my hus. Hopefully soon will feel better its same thing for over a year now
    My walking had improved though. Steps and hills are my enemy’s.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 days ago

    Hi Diann400,

    Thank you for sharing these challenges you face. They seem very daunting, and yet it sounds as if you keep moving forward, literally and figuratively. Kudos to you! I hope you take a moment to acknowledge your bravery and determination. Thank you for sharing, and I am hoping that you can get some measure of comfort and relief as soon as possible.

    All the best,
    Tamara

  • btcavanaugh1720
    6 days ago

    Fortunately or unfortunately I work for myself. I have changed my work hours to give myself 2 hours in the morning to loosen up, do my exercises, put heat on my back, make and eat breakfast with my medicine. It makes for a long day frequently and worse if I have a morning doctor appointment. I do a 5 minute meditation on the incline table every morning and a 20 minute meditation every night. So I can sleep better!!! So important for me. People can call it discipline but it’s really survival!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    6 days ago

    Hi btcavanaguth1720,

    Thanks for sharing how you’ve changed your schedule to make it work for you as best it can, all the things you do to support your body, and for sharing about how meditation helps you. It sounds like you’re doing a really good job of giving your body what it needs, which can be inspiring for others. I’m glad you’re here in our community!

    All the best,
    Tamara

  • David Advent moderator
    1 week ago

    Thanks for this article, Tamara! The cognitive shift from feeling as if you’re just surviving by making it through the mornings to celebrating that you made it to work is an important one, and something I think I’ll begin to incorporate in my own routine.

    Wishing you well,

    David (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member)

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    1 week ago

    Thanks David – I’m glad you found this to be useful. Have a wonderful day, Tamara

  • CynthiaV
    2 weeks ago

    What a great suggestion Tamara @tamara! A reset. I’m going to try this the next time I must be at an appointment early in the day. I hate that feeling of being off-kilter. It causes me to be less attentive and that’s when accidents most often occur. I also do not like not being at my best and that in turn affects my wellbeing and patience level. I’ve always wanted to practice meditation and am going to check out Headspace. Thanks for this very doable tip!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    1 week ago

    Thanks for sharing your comment, CynthiaV. I hope that the “reset” is helpful for you on hard mornings. Thanks for being in our community – I always enjoy reading your comments! Best, Tamara

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    2 weeks ago

    I am usually just exhausted in the morning. If I could sleep all night things would be different. But, well laying for 6-8 hours is just impossible.

    Thank goodness for morning naps. If not for morning naps, I would not be an afternoon bicycle rider. If not an afternoon bicycle rider than I would not be Rick.

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