How to deal with the tough days and get back to living.
We’ve all had those days when every part of you would rather crawl back into bed, than try and face a day with pain and joint stiffness. I know I’ve had mornings when the walk from my bed to the bathroom will often determine just what kind of day I think I’m going to have.
But here is a though I had recently… People with arthritis, provided they have a positive, future focused mindset, become the most disciplined and emotionally resilient ever because of the ability to push through the fatigue. Beyond the physical discipline, it’s also about pushing past the emotional barriers that come with feeling stiff and sore, and exercise anyway. Even if you think that your “get and go” has left the building, you still can find the reserves within you to do something for your body.
Once you get into some kind of movement, any feelings of malaise or resistance are normally quickly removed by the flood of endorphins in your system when you’re in motion. Whether it’s a few stretches, or even a little jig to your favorite song, the smallest of motion can lead to a momentum that keeps you going all day.
The brain is a powerful aspect of your design and in this blog, I want to give you same “trade ups” to offer your mind, for those tough days when maybe your resilience tank is running low…
When you want to… Trade up to…
Lie down and rest
Stand up and stretch
Sit down in your favorite chair and read for the day.
Taking a short walk (15 minutes) and a comfortable pace – rewarding yourself with an hour of reading afterward.
Eat your favorite comfort food with some TV on the side.
Explore a new healthy recipe and find joy in the discovery.
Complain, or withdraw altogether.
Call a friend who you know needs your support right now – cheer them up for a few minutes.
Whine about your pain, stiffness, anything…
Choose to write down 3 things you are grateful for.
The time to have a trade up in your mental “pocket” is before you hit the bad days. A bit like checking that your spare wheel has air in it is better done before you’re stranded on the side of the road with a puncture. Challenge yourself to find 3-5 trade ups that work best or you and have them ready to call on when you them.
Now that we’ve addressed the “I don’t feel like it…” issue – I wanted to again, draw attention to the importance of exercise – but from a mindset and “can do” approach.
Before you make the excuse your brain jumped to (!) – think about the many scientific studies done on the impact of exercise on arthritis. One study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that people with knee osteoarthritis who participated in a 12-week exercise program had significant improvements in pain, function, and quality of life compared to those who didn't exercise.
Also, in a recent episode of America’s Got Talent, it was inspiring to watch Zion Clark – a man without legs – show his amazing fitness talents and abilities. Watch it here. When I saw that, I thought about how many of us (yes, I always include myself!) find it easy to focus on what we can’t do anymore, rather than focus on, and getting good at, what we can do. I definitely cannot climb mountains, abseil, or even off-road motorbike anymore, with my unstable/degenerated spine, but I can still walk, swim, garden, etc. I also still use weights in my circuit training, and use resistance bands for muscle strength training.
Journal of Aging and Physical Activity shared research that found that older adults with arthritis who participated in a 16-week exercise program had significant improvements in physical function and mobility compared to those who didn't exercise. For those who like to geek out on the science stuff here is the link to the paper.
What's the best type of exercise?
A combination of cardiovascular exercise (which speeds up the heart) and strength/resistance training is essential to support and strengthen our body’s defenses while living with arthritis. It’s critical to start slowly, too. Don’t try to go from 0 – 100 in a week! If you’ve never done much before, start with just a few minutes a couple of times a day. Better yet, get a training session with a personal trainer who works with arthritis sufferers. They can help develop a regime for you that will not cause injury.
I know that here in the USA, summer is nearly over – but the harvest and Fall season still gives you a great opportunity to enjoy gardening. Here’s a great article about how to garden with arthritis – so you don’t injure yourself.
Every time I write about exercising with arthritis, I will always speak of swimming. (OK, it’s my favorite sport, but still…) Here’s one more article about the health benefits of swimming. Even in the winter, you can get into heated pools in your community – and keep your body moving. Health benefits of swimming:
The enemy is the cause, not the source.
The main positive impact of exercise is to reduce inflammation – the cause of all that stiffness and pain. Your enemy is not the symptoms, but the cause. Keeping yourself on an anti-inflammatory diet, and including regular exercise, go far to reducing the levels of inflammation in the body. Going back to what I said about getting a puncture. Diet and exercise and a healthy lifestyle are like putting air into your “tires” – your overall wellbeing.
If you’re having a “get up and done” kind of day, my hope is that this article has encouraged you to get yourself in motion. Starting now – move. Your body will thank you!
Till next time – here’s to YOUR limber life!