Living your best life with arthritis.

National Relaxation Day: Tips to manage stress from arthritis

Arthritis affects people of all ages and can cause stress, and in more serious cases, depression and anxiety. Pain researchers are discovering how emotions, thoughts, and behaviours can influence the level of pain someone experiences and how well they adjust to it. For instance, how an individual responds to stress can predict how well they will recover from hip replacement surgery. Even how a patient feels about whether their coping strategies are working, or not, can affect their experience of the pain itself. Other factors that can influence how well you manage with your disease are whether you feel helpless, tend to spend a lot of time thinking about your pain, whether you decide to accept your pain and carry on in spite of it, and how well you handle stress. Arthritis Broadcast Network believes people living with arthritis deserve extra relaxation on National Relaxation Day and hope that the following tips will help you relax!

Breathing

Rhythmic breathing and deep breathing can help release tension from everyday life. The former involves inhaling and exhaling slowly while counting to five; the latter can be accomplished by filling your abdomen with air, like inflating and deflating a balloon.

Exercise 

Image of someone cycling on the shared bike pathwayHarvard Health summarizes the benefits of exercise as follows: Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts — or, at least, the hot shower after your exercise is over.

Yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity. Yoga can increase muscle strength, improve flexibility, enhance respiratory endurance, and promote balance. A recent study shows that yoga is associated with increased energy and fewer bodily aches and pains. Due to its meditative nature, yoga also benefits mental health by lessening feelings of anxiety, depression, and psychological stress.

There are many health benefits to walking. Walking can benefit people living with dementia, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. A quick walk around the neighbourhood at lunch can help restart your day – you may come back with some new ideas and perspectives for that work project you’ve been stuck on all morning.

Doing aerobic sports like running or bicycling is a good way to calm down after an argument with friends or colleagues. Putting your effort and concentration into the sport will melt your worries away and help clear your mind of any heat-of-the-moment rebuttals that will only exacerbate the situation.

Doing something that you enjoy

image of someone relaxin with a warm drinkDoing something that you enjoy can be as simple as listening to music and reading or as complicated as the art of crochet. Finding that one go-to comfort food for your soul will help improve your mental health and reduce stress. If you need to discover a hobby that helps make you relax, try taking an introductory class at a local community centre or crafts store.

Progressive Muscular Relaxation – an excerpt from Harvard Health

Stressed muscles are tight, tense muscles. By learning to relax your muscles, you will be able to use your body to dissipate stress.

Muscle relaxation takes a bit longer to learn than deep breathing. It also takes more time. But even if this form of relaxation takes a little effort, it can be a useful part of your stress control program. Here’s how it works:

Progressive muscle relaxation is best performed in a quiet, secluded place. You should be comfortably seated or stretched out on a firm mattress or mat. Until you learn the routine, have a friend recite the directions or listen to them on a tape, which you can prerecord yourself.

Progressive muscle relaxation focuses sequentially on the major muscle groups. Tighten each muscle and maintain the contraction 20 seconds before slowly releasing it. As the muscle relaxes, concentrate on the release of tension and the sensation of relaxation. Start with your facial muscles, then work down the body.

Forehead

Wrinkle your forehead and arch your eyebrows. Hold; then relax.

Eyes

Close your eyes tightly. Hold; then relax.

Nose

Wrinkle your nose and flare your nostrils. Hold; then relax.

Tongue

Push your tongue firmly against the roof of your mouth. Hold; then relax.

Face

Grimace. Hold; then relax.

Jaws

Clench your jaws tightly. Hold; then relax.

Neck

Tense your neck by pulling your chin down to your chest. Hold; then relax.

Back

Arch your back. Hold; then relax.

Chest

Breathe in as deeply as you can. Hold; then relax.

Stomach

Tense your stomach muscles. Hold; then relax.

Buttocks and thighs

Tense your buttocks and thigh muscles. Hold; then relax.

Arms

Tense your biceps. Hold; then relax.

Forearms and hands

Tense your arms and clench your fists. Hold; then relax.

Calves

Press your feet down. Hold; then relax.

Ankles and feet

Pull your toes up. Hold; then relax.

The entire routine should take 12 to 15 minutes. Practice it twice daily, expecting to master the technique and experience some relief of stress in about two weeks.