Life with Arthritis: It’s a Balancing Act

Learning to live with arthritis can be a frustrating experience. You might not have the same amount of energy and pain can get in the way, making it harder to perform daily tasks – as if you are no longer the same person you once were.
That’s why it’s so important to learn how to pace yourself, know when to say no to social engagements and activities, plan for the unexpected, and schedule rejuvenation time to avoid burnout.

It’s a balancing act that is not easy to achieve because every day with arthritis is different. But to help you get closer to finding that balance and enjoying life without compromising your overall health, Arthritis Research Canada’s Patient Advisory Board has put together some tips based on their personal experiences.

Prioritize by Importance

 Prioritizing what you need to do in a day can help eliminate stress when you feel overwhelmed or need to catch up after a flare. Here are some tips on how to organize your time and save energy with arthritis: 

  • Create to-do lists and lists of what you have accomplished
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day or even an hour
  • Develop a strategy to highlight the most important tasks first
  • Do what you have time and energy for
  • Prioritize accessible work/activity environments
  • Ask yourself, “Can this wait until tomorrow or another day?”
  • Put rest, self-care and movement first
  • Make time to do things that bring you joy and help you rejuvenate
  • Watch your posture
  • Take your medications on time every day and before doing strenuous activities
  • Prioritize your mental health and stress management


Find Your Stride

Learning how to pace yourself is important when navigating life with arthritis. This takes some self-reflecting because everyone experiences different symptoms. Here are some ideas to make pacing with arthritis a little easier:

  • Break up activities by hour, day, week and month with scheduled rest and movement periods.
  • When doing daily activities, like computer work or chores, take rests every 30-60 minutes or when your body tells you it needs a moment for rest or movement. Use a timer to remind yourself if you need to!
  • Rotate activities between easy and difficult
  • Limit time spent on one activity
  • Listen to your body and only take on what you can handle.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Simplify if possible – opt-out of in-person meetings when virtual conferencing will suffice.
  • Track your physical activity and symptoms with Arthritis Research Canada’s OPERAS Health Tracking App to get a deeper understanding and clear picture of your arthritis.
  • Work from home if possible – even if just one day a week.
  • Exercise to increase stamina and reduce symptoms
  • Alternate between sitting and standing


Plan Around Your Arthritis

Managing arthritis can feel like a full-time job. Below are tips to help you plan ahead.

  • Only plan for activities during your best hours and avoid late evening activities if possible.
  • Book your doctor and treatment appointments ahead of time. Try to keep regular days, times and locations.
  • Plan rest days and schedule time between activities each day.
  • Plan around your easiest commute route.
  • Create a flare kit that’s easy to access when a flare pops up.
  • Plan appointments close to each other if in person.
  • Use a calendar and map out your activities throughout the month.


Keep it Simple

 Always ask yourself if there is an easier way to do something. Making adaptations or accommodations for your arthritis can prevent you from having to miss out. 

  • Work the hours you can handle.
  • Modify your work environment with ergonomic devices – standing desk, mouse, chair, keyboard, brace, splint etc.
  • Keep items you use the most between waist and shoulder height.
  • Work from home.


Say No Without Feeling Guilty

It can be hard to say no when living with arthritis. Feelings of guilt over missing out on something can lead to increased depression, which can make arthritis symptoms worse. It’s not your fault if you have to say no. Arthritis is a serious disease and can be a bumpy road. 

  • If you agree to an activity when you feel well, accept that you may need to cancel if you feel unwell when it’s time to do that activity.
  • It’s also okay to say no to something if it will throw off your self-management routine.
  • Try not to apologize profusely or feel compelled to justify your reasoning for not participating – simply say it isn’t possible at this time.
  • Be mindful of your body and what you say yes or no to.
  • Say no if you do not feel comfortable, especially if there is an infection risk or if it will cause your body and/or mind stress.
  • Remember that you only have so much energy in the tank.
  • Recall times when others have said no to you and you didn’t blame them.

Looking for more lifestyle tips? Check out our Arthritis Lifestyle Management Guide.

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!