Succeeding with a chronic illness involves more than just following doctor’s orders. If you’re willing to work at it, these five habits will ensure you live successfully with arthritis:
1. Learn all you can.
Knowledge is power. Read everything you can, and locate trusted sources of news and information (online or offline); find out where exercise classes are being held in your community; and ask lots of questions – of your doctor, your physical therapist and other health-care providers.
2. Pay attention to your emotions.
Living with a chronic condition such as arthritis ups your chance of developing depression. Warning signs include constant tiredness, lack of appetite, trouble making decisions, disrupted sleep and feeling worthless. To head off depression, develop a network of family and friends who raise your spirits and can help you keep active.
3. Make your doctor your partner in care.
You’re more likely to find success if you and your physician make informed decisions together. Make sure your doctor spends time with you discussing treatment options and answering all your questions. Talk about ways to improve your functioning, such as losing weight, becoming more active or reducing stress. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your physician about anything, including admitting when you haven’t followed her advice. Agree to disagree when the two of you have different opinions – and keep talking about it.
4. Take action.
It’s natural to be unsettled and upset after being diagnosed with arthritis or a related condition. But those who live successfully with chronic illness accept that their diagnosis is here to stay and they quickly start thinking about how to adapt their lives. Look at what you can do and what you may need to change (whether it’s activities, diet, exercise or stress level). Make a plan (with your doctor) and write it down. Talk to family and friends about the changes you’ll need to make. Letting others know about your plan can help you stick with it.
5. Invest in yourself.
You don’t have to give up the life you had before you were diagnosed, but you may have to put that plan you made into action. It’s not surprising to hear that the most successful patients are the ones who made changes, such as exercising more, losing weight and eating more nutritious meals. Recognize your responsibility – and ability – to take good care of yourself in order to live healthfully. Make sure your goals are realistic, even if they involve only small steps right now. Enlist family and friends to help you make healthy changes, and monitor your own behavior frequently.