Is it possible for an arthritis patient to survive in our hectic world without feeling overwhelmed? It's among the most frequently asked questions that I receive from fellow arthritis patients. One forum member wrote:
"Surviving day to day life is overwhelming. I can't keep up with the house and all the errand running and things that have to be done to keep us going in this crazy world. I gave myself time off to rest, get a handle on this crazy life. All it did was get me further behind. People around me don't understand that I can't keep going like I used to. Many of us have such guilt about not being able to keep up with the house and jobs and kids and husband. It's hard for me to put it into words, I just am exhausted from trying to live in this world and keep things going."
For those times when you feel overwhelmed, there are solutions. Initially, the solutions may not seem like they would work, but it needs to become a way of life. For you, a person living with arthritis, it may be an entirely new way of life. If you expect to tame that overwhelmed feeling, follow this advice.
It's an unfortunate fact that arthritis and chronic pain conditions are limiting. You likely will not be able to do all that you used to do as your condition worsens. In order to accomplish as much as possible and to be as productive as you would like to be, you need to prioritize your work and activities. You must decide which task or activity is most important. Rank everything you need to do in order of priority. Then, take it from the top. With reduced energy compounded by physical limitations, you will at the least accomplish what is most important. Two things might happen when you prioritize:
- You may actually feel reinvigorated as you see important tasks getting done and that may allow you to accomplish even more.
- You may only get one important thing accomplished but you will know right where to start when you get back to the list of priorities. The list will keep you focused.
Simplify Your Life
If you feel overwhelmed by having too much to do, take that as a sign that you need to simplify your life. Analyze every aspect of your life and notice where you get bogged down. Is there another way to do something? Can you let something go entirely? For example, if bill-paying is drudgery for you, have you checked into automatic bill paying? If grocery shopping saps your energy, can you have groceries delivered or can you break your shopping trip into smaller, more frequent trips? If cooking for your family is an issue, can you double up on what you cook so that part can be frozen for a future meal? If you double the meal today, you guarantee yourself a day off from cooking at a later date. Is your house cluttered? It might be time for a garage sale or charitable donation. There are myriad examples like these but the point is that you can find comfort by simplifying your life.
This can be a tough one for arthritis patients with physical limitations. Arthritis patients often have good days and bad days with regard to how they feel. Even within the same day, you can feel good for part of the day and feel poorly the other part of the day. Arthritis patients tend to want to do a lot when they feel well. That makes sense, right? It makes sense only if you can recognize that pain is a signal that you are overdoing. Arthritis patients suffer greatly after overdoing. Learn your own limits. Pace yourself so that you don't push past your limit. Pacing yourself will help you control your pain level.
Adjust and Adapt
It's important to strike a balance. You don't want arthritis to control your life, but you can't ignore that you have arthritis either. In our crazy, hectic world you may at times need to break your routine, deviate from your norm, adjust and adapt. If on any given day Plan A isn't working for you, switch to Plan B. You must always have Plan B in place. Come back to Plan A when it feels right. Don't feel like having to change your plans is a punishment. Having to change plans is reality. It's taking care of yourself. You may even have to give up an activity completely but don't give it up without replacing it with an activity you can do. The loss won't sting as much.
Achieve Balance in Your Life
If you are feeling overwhelmed that means some aspect of your life is out of balance. It again can be myriad things that may be out of balance. Are you working too much? Having trouble keeping up with housework? Can't find time to spend with your kids? Can't find time for yourself? Recognize what's out of balance in your life and consciously work on finding more balance. Take back your life.
There is much written about managing arthritis (find a good doctor, eat right, lose weight, exercise, be compliant with your treatment plan and so much more). Since there is no cure for arthritis, learning to live with it is essential. Life does go on after being diagnosed with arthritis. To life your best life with arthritis, manage the disease and learn to balance your life. Make "balance" your mantra. Whenever you become overwhelmed, repeat the mantra and respond accordingly. Consciously make the effort to become more balanced in your life at the first sign of being overwhelmed. You can do it!