Cat lounging in steaming up of tea with clocks and hourglasses falling in background

What's the Connection Between Relaxation and RA?

It might seem like a simple question, but lately, I’ve been thinking about what is the connection between relaxation and RA. How compatible are RA and self-care? And if they are compatible (which, in my understanding, they have to be!), why is self-care important when you have a chronic illness?

The obvious answer seems to be that anyone with a chronic illness needs to prioritize rest since people with chronic illnesses have less energy and therefore need to conserve the little energy that they have. But I think it’s a little more complicated than that.

I felt guilty about relaxing

At least in my experience, I find myself feeling guilty when taking care of myself and relaxing. This usually manifests as thinking that I’m not being productive or that I am missing out on opportunities and experiences by resting and not working.

It’s got me thinking: how do I move beyond this guilt and get past this mindset that I recognize as detrimental to not only my condition, but to myself?

Relaxation and self-care are valuable

The first thing I can think of to remind myself about the importance of self-care is that it is important and valuable.

Something I had to recognize for the way I perceive the world is that I need to find the value in something to appreciate its importance. So, when I start to relax and take care of myself and then feel guilty about relaxing, I ask myself: “What purpose does this self-care have for me?”

In general, its purpose lies in helping me conserve my energy for the things that I need to accomplish either later in the day or in the upcoming week. Shifting my mindset to identifying the value of relaxation and self-care helped me find peace and comfort in taking the time to take care of myself, in overcoming the feelings of guilt I used to feel.

Guilt is not good for RA or my well-being

Beyond identifying the value of rest, one of the most impactful things for me was to recognize that operating in a mindset of guilt was how I used to live my life before being diagnosed. And that that mindset is no longer appropriate or relevant to my current life — now that I have been diagnosed with RA.

Self-care as a radical act

Thinking about rest and relaxation as something that must occur naturally given the physical condition of my body has emboldened me to relax more. Instead of beating myself up about self-care, I now find that embracing self-care is a radical act, something that breaks the stereotypes prescribed to us by an unfettered capitalist system.

The guilt that I sometimes feel — besides stemming from my own upbringing and personal experiences — is intricately tied to the system in which we live. Even though I still struggle with taking care of myself, I am learning to actively participate in it every day.

Relaxation does not need to be justified

So: what is the connection between relaxation and having RA? Well, I think that really depends on your experience with RA and on your perspective of self-care. For me, I have had to radically change my perspective to allow myself the opportunity to take care of myself.

Doing so has made me more productive, given me more control over my life, has clarified certain perspectives of my life, and, overall, has made me happier. In all, relaxation is important — with and without a clear justification.

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