Got stress? Feeling down? It can be a challenge to keep a positive outlook when arthritis stiffens your neck, knuckles or knees. And stress – whether brief or lingering, mild or severe – can intensify your pain and darken your mood. So it's important to find ways to relieve stress. Happily, new research suggests stress management might be as simple as giving these strategies a try:
Sound off. Researchers at Germany’s Charite University Medical Centre in Berlin found that people exposed to sustained noise – roaring lawn mowers, ringing phones, humming traffic, loud music – tend to be more stressed and have a greater risk of heart attack. Solution: Turn off the loud music, the blaring television and your computer chiming with arriving e-mails. Find a quiet place and enjoy the silence.
Plug the positive. Studies performed at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Emory University in Atlanta and the University of Torino Medical School in Italy suggest when you anticipate relief from pain, the brain delivers by releasing natural painkillers and changing neuron activity to help you feel better, regardless of the treatment. Solution: Take time each day to remember when things felt right, good and relaxed. Apply those good feelings to the challenges you’re facing now and expect good things to happen.
Go green. A view of the outdoors can make you physically and mentally healthier, according to several researchers in the United States and Europe. The natural environment, including lush, green scenery – or even pictures of the real thing – has been shown to reduce blood pressure, stress, anger and frustration, and promote more positive emotions. Solution: Picnic in a park. Go for a drive in the country or a walk in your local nature preserve and soak up the sights. Or rearrange your furniture to give a good view of your yard.
Leave work at work. Bringing work home leads to mistakes, stress and burnout, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Solution: Instead of taking work home, make a to-do list at the end of the day topped with items you want to accomplish first thing the next morning. Put that list, contact numbers and necessary files in the middle of your desk before taking off for the evening.