Keeping your stress levels low and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is especially important during the busy season.
The holidays are upon us, which is always one of my favorite times of the year. But if you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) like me, the season can also be difficult.
You may worry about triggering a flare from decadent foods and stressful holiday planning. Or maybe you’re already dealing with a flare, so you’re nervous about enjoying events while being in pain. I’ve dealt with both scenarios several times during my last 25 years with RA.
These tips have helped me enjoy the holiday season with less stress and pain.
Sugar and dairy are my worst food triggers, and I know they’re common triggers for many people with RA. Years ago, I started bringing my own low sugar and dairy-free desserts to parties. Bringing my own treats means I get to enjoy something sweet without worrying about triggering a flare.
Some of the sweets I’ve made over the years have been so popular I get asked to bring them every year! This dairy-free pumpkin pie is one of my favorites.
You can make your own food or snacks too. I always offer to bring a few side dishes to holiday dinners to ensure I have something to eat that won’t make my RA act up.
Cutting back on events has helped me eliminate flares during the holiday season. I do so much less this time of year to keep my stress under control. It took practice to get here because I hated turning people down or not doing all the seasonal activities, like Christmas cards, parties, gifts, and baking.
Now we choose a few big events together as a family and keep everything else low-key. Respecting my own limits has been one of my most important practices for my RA.
When I was a kid, I didn’t want any of my friends to know I had RA. I did everything my friends did during the holiday season, but I paid for it later. As I got older, I realized it wasn’t worth keeping my condition a secret.
When you’re open with your friends and family about your health, it’s less stressful. If you’re newly diagnosed or still struggling to manage your lifestyle with RA, it helps to be open with loved ones during this time of year.
Maintaining healthy routines when you’re busy can be difficult, but it’s important if you have a chronic condition. No matter what’s on my schedule, I make sure to walk, do Pilates, and keep to my meal plan.
If I keep up with my routine during the week, I usually give myself a break during holiday get-togethers, Thanksgiving, or Christmas.
During years when I didn’t keep up with my lifestyle, my RA flared right in the middle of the season.
I struggled to keep up with my medication during holiday travel when I was younger. There were times I forgot it altogether or didn’t make notes to take it when we were out of town. When I travel now, I have a reoccurring reminder on my phone to take my medication, so I don’t forget.
If you take medication that needs refrigeration, make sure to plan for that when traveling. It’s important to keep up with your regular treatment plan, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Stress relief is important for avoiding and managing flares. I plan more stress-relieving activities during holiday time than the rest of the year. I book several massages, add more books to my reading list, and try to rest more when possible.
RA pain can make parties and holiday activities less enjoyable. I always have topical treatments with me during flares. I keep CBD cream or a heated cream in my purse, so I can rub it on my joints when needed. It knocks the edge off and lets me enjoy any activity!
On that note, it’s always a good idea to have pain relievers — like Tylenol, turmeric liquid, or topicals — in your car or purse during a flare. Keep whatever treatments you normally use with you during holiday events.
Following these simple tips has allowed me to enjoy the holidays more than when I first dealt with flares. I know my RA — and how to manage it — much better.
Keeping your stress levels low and maintaining your healthy lifestyle are the most important aspects of living well with RA in any season!
Medically reviewed on November 03, 2022
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