Posts tagged ‘rheumatoid arthritis’

March 22, 2019

#564 – Live Better with RA – Tip #1


If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you are no stranger to its marauding gang of symptoms: aches, pains, brain fog, fatigue, insomnia, and stiffness, to name just a few. When you take care of your mind, body, and spirit, you might just find that your RA symptoms improve.  You can live better with RA with these 10 tips, which will be posted one at a time.

Tip #1 – Transform Stress

My journey with RA is definitely better since I’ve become Auntie Stress (AS), almost 13 years ago. I often joke that I am my own best client. However, neither RA, nor stress, are jokes. When I transform my stress, I am better equipped to manage my life.

Self-care becomes easier when your system isn’t flooded with stress hormones, which have a tendency to move you further away from what you want.

The Why

If you want to live well, it’s imperative that you learn strategies that help you break out of the stress cycle. Stress and RA have a direct influence on each other. Stress can increase inflammation. RA can increase stress.

If you’ve ever driven with someone who is stepping on the gas-brake-gas-brake-gas-brake, you’ll know how distressing that is. The 2 branches of your autonomic nervous system (ANS) – sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system, are operating in a similar fashion. Go-stop-go-stop-go-stop – it’s not a good feeling. This type of action tends to wear out the nervous system and sets up the scene for worsening health. Your system is disorderly and you pay the price.

Instead onboard techniques that can bring your nervous system into balance.

The When

Anytime. Anywhere. The beauty of these techniques is that they are not dependent upon waiting for a quiet room, after work, after school or a retreat. You can do them anytime once you know what to do.

The How

Employ a mindful, deliberate approach and use your feelings to help you navigate out of The Stress Zone. When you learn to manage your thoughts and feelings, you gain invaluable emotional management techniques that allow you to shift out of the Stress Zone. A change in perspective can result in an internal change.

For example, last week I awoke with a number of stiff and swollen joints – something I haven’t experienced in quite a long time.

Before AS

I would immediately jump into “Oh no, is this the start of a major flare? What am I going to do? What if…?” That sort of fear-based thinking put me into The Stress Zone. The Stress Zone triggers a cascade of hormones that are designed for flight or fight. Additionally, it also triggers the inflammatory response.

After AS

I regularly address and undress my stress. I am my own best client, after all! For example, last Friday, I awoke unusually stiff. I had rusty hinges for knees. My fingers were about as useful as sausages – they looked like them, too. Apparently I had marbles in my slippers – at least that’s what my feet felt like.

I knew that panicking, wondering and worrying if this was the start of a flare, especially since I hadn’t experienced this in quite some time, was not the best route to take. So, I started with a session on the Inner Balance. While I was doing that, I had ice packs and heat packs. I followed up with an easy swim, since exercise can help reduce inflammation. It didn’t take long and I was moving as well as I normally do.

Heart rate variability (HRV), is the way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. Learning to improve my HRV and regularly practising it has made a difference in my health and well-being.

Here’s what Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School’s blog, has to say in Heart rate variability: A new way to track well-being:

 If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the ANS the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience and flexibility. Over the past few decades, research has shown a relationship between low HRV and worsening depression or anxiety. A low HRV is even associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease.

People who have a high HRV may have greater cardiovascular fitness and be more resilient to stress. HRV may also provide personal feedback about your lifestyle and help motivate those who are considering taking steps toward a healthier life.

Here is how technology (Inner Balance) helps me improve my HRV:


I use this device on a daily basis to assist me in living my best life with RA. The techniques can be done without the device, however, there is power in having proof that I am in high coherence.

Are you curious about what this is showing you?


There are four challenge levels. As you build coherence within your system, you are encouraged to move up into the next level, which is more challenging to do. In level one and two you can move into high coherence by changing the way in which you breathe. Level three and four require a willful letting go by changing your feeling state. 


Coherence indicates synchronization between your cognitive, emotional and physiological systems.  When you are able to move out of low coherence into medium and/or high coherence you enjoy greater feelings of well-being, as well as increased immunity, and other physical and mental health improvements.

Coherence Over Time

This shows a real time picture of what is happening with the two branches of your ANS.

You can see where I dropped from high coherence to medium coherence at about 2:25. This is when my thoughts shifted to an ongoing family issue. That’s an example of how our ANS is influenced by how we think and feel.


HRV is the beat to beat way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. The smoother the rhythm, the more harmony within your system. Your heart is constantly speeding up and slowing down. When you take your pulse, or when you use the heart sensor on gym equipment you are getting an average, rather than your HRV.

I was unable to capture the entire session on my phone, but you can see the speeding up/slowing down rhythm of my heart.

Another Look

On The Language of Stress you can see a different picture of my use of technology. This time it’s the emWave, a desktop unit that I like to use before I sit down to do any writing.

I do have some specials on these. If you’re interested in the DIY of stress transformation, or stress coaching, please send me an email.

Watch for Tip #2.

Related Posts:

More in This Series:

With Gratitude

For Graham Shaw’s TED Talk video: Why people believe they can’t draw.

HeartMath is a registered trademark of the Institute of HeartMath.
emWave and Personal Stress Reliever are registered trademarks of Quantum Intech, Inc.
Inner Balance Trainer is a trademark of Quantum Intech, Inc.
March 18, 2013

#431 – How Does It Feel? – Part 2

> Dentist

Image courtesy of Marcelo Terraza.

It’s often true that you can’t fully know what something is like unless you have lived it yourself. Sure, you can empathize, you can imagine, but you don’t, won’t and can’t really know unless you’ve walked the day in someone else’s shoes and on someone else’s misshapen feet. And you can’t really do that, nor would I want you to do that.

So, how do you explain what it is like to live with a chronic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis? By using an analogy.

The one I’ve come up with is the acute pain of a toothache. It nags at you, grabs your attention and distracts you until you make your way to the dentist for that relief . . . until you get the bill, but that’s another type of pain, altogether! 🙂

Anyway, imagine that toothache, going on and on, day after day, grinding away at you, distracting you from what you hold dear.

That is what rheumatoid arthritis is like when the disease is active and uncontrolled. Unlike going to the dentist, where you get immediate relief, often the fire of a flare-up can take time—months in some cases—to extinguish.

Deepening the Understanding

There’s a post on RA Cellist’s blog that provides a link to a clip where a rheumatologist dons a simulation suit called a “Physical Function” suit. He wanted to better understand what his patients go through when their movements are impacted by a chronic and debilitating condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. The suit mimics the restricted mobility of RA, but as the interviewer pointed out, “No simulation can fully replicate the pain that people with rheumatoid arthritis suffer”.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people had access to the Physical Function suit. People who work directly with those of us with rheumatological conditions – doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, massage therapists, etc. I can just imagine how different our world would look if policy makers, designers and engineers were able to spend some time working in one of those suits. Products might be more user-friendly and policies more inclusive, and reflective of our needs.

I’d like to acknowledge that things have come a long way since I was first diagnosed, thirty-five years ago. However, I think that journey has not yet been completed.

Related post: How Does It Feel? – Part 1.

February 2, 2013

#387 – A Poem: In Honour of Rheumatoid Awareness Day

For colleagues, friends, family and neighbours …

Marianna Paulson

I have RA, but it doesn’t have me.

It will come, and it will go
Advancing, retreating, and advancing some more
Mercurial, mysterious, omnipresent
It can arrive slowly, silently
Or come thundering in.

Its presence is felt
Gnawing at your joint linings
Grabbing your muscles, rupturing your tendons
Eroding your ligaments, altering your vocal cords
And, yes, even stealing from your generous heart.

At times, you can be so exhausted, too tired to talk
To listen, to participate, to be a good friend
Sometimes your life is guided
By a disease that claims you for its own
You’re there when you’re able, when you’ve had a good rest.

It can drown your dreams
Curtail your ability to work and play
The costs can be huge, lost time – a big price to pay
Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, too
It can change you, make you stronger and more determined, that’s true.

If medals were distributed, for effort, perseverance, and energy expended
To accomplish what you might call “regular”, “everyday”, or “ordinary”
Upon the Olympic podium, you could proudly stand
Claim first, second and third, you deserve a hand
For feats favoured by Heracles, Nike and Proteus.

It will come, and it will go
Advancing, retreating, and advancing some more
Morning, noon, night, can bring drastic changes
You have rheumatoid arthritis
But it won’t have you.

Please help A Rheumful of Tips get to Page 1 of’s Best Health Blog of 2012 contest. Consider voting for A Rheumful of Tips every 24 hours with your Twitter or FaceBook account. The contest ends on Feb. 15th. Thank YOU!

Thanks to all who entered my giveaway; your love of tea was evident with your creative answers. A variety of Chai Teas will soon be brewing at Karen’s home, thanks to the fine folks at Stash Tea. Stay tuned, I’m working hard to find some other giveaways for you.

January 1, 2013

#371 – Invoking T.O.T.O.M.

Theory othe Oxygen Mask.

Just like those pre-flight instructions that go something like this: “In the unlikely event of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop. Please put your mask on before attending to your children.”

When you live with a chronic disease, it is important to look after yourself.

This means eating well, getting adequate amounts of rest and exercise. Thinking P.C. Nurturing yourself, which includes your spirit.

Minding my spirit this New Year’s Eve means that what was planned will not be, and what will be, will be. It means that my intended post will have to wait. (For a hint, please visit my new website—thank you, Kathrin!— and check out the slider on the topic of joy.)

2012 began with a pop and ended with a (belly) flop, which wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been into water!

Missteps. Slip Ups. Fall Down. Get Up.
A teeter-totter of losses and of gains
Times of triumph and of pain
Body, Mind, Heart and Soul.
Time travels, friendships grow
Laughter shared; tears flow.

Missteps. Slip Ups. Fall Down. Get Up.
Breathe out, breathe in
One foot, then another, and again
The winds of change are blowing strong
Nature soothes, friends hearken
Thoughts clarified, decisions loosely woven.

Life, like rheumatoid arthritis is mercurial. Sometimes, you’re on a teeter-totter, other times a roller-coaster. Reach out, hold on, hunker down. Pause. Breathe.

My wish for you is a heart-felt Happy New Year! May 2013 bring you more joy and less pain.

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