Over the years, especially since the onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have come to deeply appreciate slowing down over the course of each day and “pressing the pause button” whenever I can. I would suggest that anyone with a chronic disease can benefit. “Pausing” can help us cope with many of the challenges we face in dealing with RA from stress to pain to depression and fatigue. How we do that varies and depends on our schedules, moods, overall health, preferences, etc.
The first and most common way to pause during the day is to consider taking a nap. According to the Sleep Foundation, “a short nap is usually recommended (20-30 minutes) for short-term alertness. This type of nap provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.” I find napping to be wonderfully beneficial and often provides me with that little bit of rest and renewal that makes the rest of the day more enjoyable and, in terms of my RA, often more endurable.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of benefits to napping among them reducing fatigue, increasing alertness, improving mood, improving performance including quicker reaction time and better memory. They also recommend that we take naps mid-afternoon to avoid having them disrupt our bedtime ability to fall asleep. If you find that napping makes you feel groggy try taking a shorter one.
If napping is not your thing, try simply finding a quiet place; put your feet up, close your eyes and practice some deep breathing. Adding in some calming sounds and scents (music and candles) can deepen the benefit even further, allowing us to renew and refresh.
Finding a way to do some gentle movement for a brief period is another great way to pause during the day. If you are sitting at a desk, get up, stretch, do a little Tai Chi or even Yoga perhaps. Not only does it serve to clear your mind, but it helps our joints! I actually set my phone alarm for two times during the day so it has become a routine part of my day. It is too easy to let it slide! Setting aside a time and sticking to it is one way to counter our natural tendencies to just keep on going without pause!
Go outside. We all spend so much time indoors, especially for those of us up north, in the winter. I go outside many times during the day, not just on my way to and from work. I love to go outside and simply stand and look around, take some deep breaths and appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. Not only does this help with breaking up the routine of my day, but it gives me a sense of freedom and ease to appreciate nature. I particularly love gazing at the stars at night. We have spectacular night time views in Vermont and I am so grateful for these opportunities to pause.
It is far too easy to get caught up in, not only the day to day obstacles and tasks associated with managing RA, but also just dealing with life in general. Since I have started doing some of these practices I find my overall temperament is better, I feel more rested, more clear-headed and, most of all, happier in general. Consider pressing the pause button in your life. I think you will be glad you did!
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