2020 RA Goals
I'm not really a new year’s resolution kind of guy. I find it far more effective to simply plot my goals and how to achieve them whenever I feel it is necessary. This works far better for me than to rely on a culturally sanctioned time to do so. Of course, there is no reason you can’t do both: set goals in the spirit of a new year and set goals as needed or when deemed necessary. One does not preclude the other.
My new year resolutions to help manage rheumatoid arthritis
With that in mind, I’m thinking of 2020 resolutions with the mindset of strengthening and furthering goals I have been working on rather than set new goals entirely. I consider it more of a doubling down on my resolution to do certain things since having RA rather than promising myself I will chart a new life course.
Goal #1: Don’t complain.
There is a lot to complain about with RA. I think it is perfectly reasonable to feel down or to outright despise having RA. More so when things are hard, painful, and unrelenting. However, some time ago I caught myself vocally complaining about RA, the pain I felt, and many of the difficulties I face. I didn’t like hearing myself and resolved that day to stop complaining.
Not complaining is helpful to me
The mental space I was in when I was complaining was not nice either. Ultimately, complaining affects me negatively. I decided right then to just stay silent when the hard times hit.
I have found that not complaining has several benefits. Most importantly, I like who I am more when I keep my difficulties to myself. In fact, I find myself more motivated to find solutions to my problems when I don’t vocalize them. I find that I feel mentally stronger when I acknowledge how much something hurts or is difficult, then resolve to do my best anyway.
Generally, when I complain or rant about RA, I will often regret it a few hours later. I will think “I can do better than that. Nobody benefited from that tirade, including myself.” That other people may find me more enjoyable to be around is a nice side-effect.
I'm not denying that RA is difficult but I want to complain less
I am not saying my goal is to turn legitimately difficult experiences into something they are not. Simply not complaining is my goal. That means that sometimes I am in pain, tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed, but I keep it to myself. If someone asks how I am feeling (generally my wife), I will tell them, but not in a way that looks for sympathy. Rather, I try to communicate that this is just how things are. That also means I will still ask for help when I need it.
I try not to complain because I don’t like to hear myself doing it and I don't like where I go mentally. This year, I am doubling down on my resolution not to complain.
Goal #2: Continue exercising, lifting weight, & stretching.
I used to be an elite competitive cyclist prior to RA. Though I continued to race my bicycle for a few years after my diagnosis, the demands of that level of competition were not sustainable. I still exercise regularly. But since retiring from competitive sport, I have really had to adjust to how I approach exercise.
Modearte exercising has helped my RA
I find lifting weights combined with moderate aerobic exercise to be one of the most helpful things for dealing with RA pain. This past year I’ve read several books on strength training and have learned through consistent application (and a few painful errors) proper technique. The reduction in endurance exercise combined with the addition of resistance training has positively affected my posture. It changed the way I walk, and my overall feeling of physical well-being. It has been a learning process. This year I am resolving to keep at it.
Strengthening exercises for RA complications
I have also made videos about foot pain and strengthening collapsing arches if that is a problem you are facing. As I mention in my videos, this can be incredibly difficult. I can take a long time to see results. Nonetheless, my feet are getting stronger. This year, I am going to keep strengthening those arches. I’ve started falling off the regular foot strengthening exercises as my feet have gotten better. There is still a lot of room for improvement. I’m resolving to be more consistent.
Goal #3: Learn new things.
With the diagnosis of RA comes loss. Loss of health, loss of function, loss of potential dreams, lifestyles, and goals. A year ago, right when I retired from competitive racing, I decided to take a different approach to my life in general and living with RA. Rather than focus on what I could not do because of RA, I resolved to learn new things.
Finding a new hobby or activity
A few months ago I began practicing Brazilian Jui Jitsu at a local studio near my home. Every Saturday, I wrestle/grapple with everything I’ve got. It feels great to go head to head with someone while learning a new skill that has real-world self-defense applications. The nice thing is I can tap my partner anytime I am in pain. When you lightly tap your partner or say “out” or make any indication you are done, your partner let’s off. That means I am often tapping out of matches when someone without RA would keep going. Some days I have to take it really easy but I don’t care. I’m happy to be learning something new.
I’ve also been learning Spanish through audiobooks. I figure my work commutes could be more productive, and this has been fun.
I have found one of the best ways to fight off the sense of loss that comes with RA is to devote yourself to continuing to learn things you have always wanted to. I’m resolving to keep up this goal of learning new things in 2020.
What are your resolutions, and why?
When was your last flare?