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How I Approach the New Year with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Living Well

January 03, 2023

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Photography by Anna Berkut/ Stocksy United

Photography by Anna Berkut/ Stocksy United

by Fiske Nyirongo


Fact Checked by:

Maria Gifford


by Fiske Nyirongo


Fact Checked by:

Maria Gifford


Resolutions aren’t the be-all and end-all. I like to think of them as methods to continually develop my relationship with rheumatoid arthritis.

I used to set New Year’s resolutions every December. I’d set them with renewed hope that I would stick to them.

But — like most people — I would end up ticking only one or two items off the list. It’s thought that approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail.

Since my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) diagnosis, my approach to the New Year has changed. I still set resolutions, but living with RA means that I have to prioritize my comfort. I always try to keep this in mind.

“Failing” my resolutions doesn’t bring me comfort. This means I try to make resolutions that can’t be measured or failed. Instead, I try to make priorities that I aim to continually put into practice.

I’ve slowly refined my approach to New Year so that I no longer think of resolutions as “starting over” but rather as another step in my life with RA. Every year with RA is a chance to keep developing my relationship with it.

The following is a list of resolutions I will make this year. I hope that they might give you some inspiration at whatever time of the year you choose to enact them.

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Over the last couple of years, my body has gone through some trying moments that have taught me a lot about slowing down. I knew it became a problem when I uttered the same answer every time someone asked how I was. I simply said, “tired.” It became automatic and was hard to even recognize as a feeling anymore.

I’ve tried to adapt my actions and lifestyle to prioritize my health and well-being.

So, when I re-enrolled in college, I chose a remote learning option instead of a full-time program. I also decided to take on more work-from-home roles to help me deal with fatigue and flare-ups.

These steps are the foundation I need for wellness to be incorporated into my life.

This year, I want to focus on practicing self-forgiveness whenever I push my body past its limits. Over time I’ve learned how many tasks I can complete, but my RA still throws curve balls now and then. This means that my schedule can suddenly become overwhelming and I feel guilty when I don’t accomplish everything.

I want to practice giving myself kindness and forgiveness in these scenarios.

We all need wellness, especially with RA. So this year, make sure you’re prioritizing your health and happiness in whatever ways are possible for you.

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I moved into my own place for the first time last September. I was incredibly excited.

I enjoy my own company, and roommates I’ve had in the past have struggled to understand this. In my culture, introversion is sometimes viewed as rude. So, to get my own place where I can completely relax was a dream come true. I no longer felt like I was performing for an audience.

Despite how happy I was, I remember sitting in my living room and dissolving into a sobbing mess.

I was crying for the part of me that thought this would never be possible. I was crying because a part of me was also scared that this would be taken away. I had racing “what if” thoughts ⁠— “what if I fail to pay my rent” or “what if my flare-ups force me to move back in with my parents.”

I know this isn’t true because I have steady sources of income and I am able to handle flare-ups on my own. But still, these thoughts occupy my mind.

This year I want to battle these feelings, which I think likely come from unstable patches in my childhood and young adulthood years. So, I want to start therapy. To avoid this being a “resolution,” I’m mindful that therapy might come in different shapes and sizes. It might include journaling or other mindfulness practices such as meditation.

Perhaps you have negative thoughts or worries that you want to stop. Check out these tips to stop spiraling negative thoughts from taking control.


Now that I live alone, and enjoy my own company, I can feel disconnected from others.

Loneliness and isolation can have a negative impact on our health, so it’s important to seek connection in ways that work for you.

A few years ago, I bought two plants for my home desk. They helped me discover that I love having greenery in my home.

There’s lots of evidence to show that plants at home can help your health, from reducing stress to increasing your productivity. But for me, it helps me to feel connected to my bloodline.

I come from an extended family who have farmed for generations stretching back to the early 1900s. A couple of house plants are far from the skills of my ancestors and extended family, but it does help me to feel like I am honoring my roots.

I’ve reached out to relatives to get advice about plants, and in doing so have formed new connections that I really enjoy.

There are lots of health benefits of friendships. I want to make sure that I am connecting with others in ways that prioritize my comfort this year, and this is one way that I think this is possible.

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Finally, I want to prioritize joy.

There have been moments in my life when I have stared joy in the face and not held onto it for fear that it’s not meant for me. A case of mistaken identity.

I want to start welcoming joy into my life, giving it a seat, and telling it to stay for a while.

I hope this will come naturally with my other resolutions, from me practicing self-forgiveness, therapy, and connecting with others. But, I also think it’s a matter of building happy habits, such as acknowledging what I’m grateful for, or giving others compliments.

Always remember that you are worthy of experiencing joy.

Here’s to the (New) Year

I approach the New Year with promises of doing better just like most humans do. But living with RA means that I have changed my approach.

I no longer create a resolution checklist, but a list of priorities that cater to my comfort.

Whether it’s the new year or the middle of the year, I hope these resolutions inspire you on your journey with RA.

Fact checked on January 03, 2023

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About the author

Fiske Nyirongo

Fiske Nyirongo is a a freelance writer based in Lusaka, Zambia. She is currently studying communications, remotely, at Mulungushi University in Kabwe, Zambia. While she prefers a quiet corner of a café with a good book to most activities outside, she is working on getting more acquainted with outdoor excursions. When she’s not writing from the comfort of her desk, she loves checking out new restaurants, perfecting her swimming skills, and exploring the malls and streets of Lusaka.

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