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A Guide for People Living With Arthritis, by Charlotte Murphy

13th April 2021

Good afternoon all.

Please find below a piece on Living with Arthritis, forwarded to us by Charlotte Murphy, a freelance writer who has been working on various topics in the not-for-profit sector for some time. There are some helpful links and a positive outlook on display in here which may be useful to you if you haven’t come across them already; please provide feedback on the article which we will forward to Charlotte.

Best regards,
The ASNet Team

A Guide For People Living with Arthritis

If you are living with arthritis, then you will be keenly aware that this is not yet a chronic condition which can be treated or controlled by medication alone. However, there are several easy things which you can do which will greatly enhance your chance of living successfully with and managing your arthritis.

1. Create suitable support systems

For many who are living with the invisible disability and chronic pain of arthritis, the diagnosis can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation, depression and hopelessness; yet this need not be the case. People living with arthritis can have full and happy lives if they have a developed network of family, friends and other support in place to raise their spirits, assist with prohibitive tasks, and help keep them active and socially engaged. If your condition has progressed to the point where carrying out necessary daily living tasks has become a challenge, or you find yourself unable to access things or people you enjoy because of restricted mobility, then the time may be right for you to consider engaging a professional carer. Finding the right care for yourself is essential and should definitely be considered if it can help to keep you living the life you desire. For example, if you want to get help which will ‘enable you to get out and about to pursue your hobbies, interests and living an independent life’, then choosing to seek supportive care in the home will help you to achieve these things.

2. Do your own research
Taking proactive action to learn about your condition will help you to make informed decisions and sensible plans for the future. While your doctor is likely to have given you some material to read about your condition, it is useful to seek out more detailed information from trusted sources too. It is important to remain balanced when looking at material about arthritis; make sure that you look for things which could help rather than just reading about worst-case scenarios. For example, there are many specialists who will be able to help you with specific exercises, nutrition and other support (see our calendar for weekly events we hold) for the benefit of your body and your overall wellness.

3. Be aware
Having awareness of your mind, emotions, rhythms and sensations will help you to notice if there are certain events (such as stressful moments or alcohol consumption) which bring on an exacerbated flare-up of your arthritis. Since living with a chronic condition can make people more susceptible to developing anxiety or depression, practicing awareness over these key areas will also help you to notice if you are at risk of becoming depressed and anxious. Some signs which can indicate early depression are lack of appetite, persistent fatigue, disrupted sleep, difficulty making decisions, difficulty feeling the joy of life and lack of self-worth. If you notice any of these signs in yourself, it is important to check in with yourself about what you need. Perhaps you need to increase your positive social interactions, do more of what nurtures your mind, or consult a professional.

4. Take action
It’s very natural to feel upset, angry or powerless after receiving a diagnosis for arthritis. However, it can be helpful to remember that there are many people with arthritis who live wonderful, rich lives. The sooner you feel able to start thinking about how you can adapt your life to enable you to continue progressing, the sooner you will be able to get things in place which will support you. Making a clear plan is a strategy which many find reassuring and effective. It is advisable to include your doctor, your family and your friends in your plan if you can, as this will allow you to get the best advice and will let everyone understand how they can support you. Sharing a plan with others usually helps us to stick to it too, particularly if there are goals around exercise and diet.

5. Value yourself
You may already have the struggles of a chronic diagnosis to deal with, so why would you want to make yourself feel any worse? This might seem like common sense, but it is very easy for us to become self-critical, berating ourselves for the challenges we face. While it is important to recognise your responsibility to look after yourself from this moment forward, kindness to yourself is going to be key to your ability to live successfully with arthritis long-term. Regardless of how you have treated or viewed your body in the past, there is no time like the present to start nurturing it.