The Pain Diaries: What Happens When I Fall Off My Self Care Routine

One month ago I was at The American College of Rheumatology Conference in Atlanta Georgia which took a lot out of my arthritic body. I knew I would fall behind in my self care routine again, like when I went through surgery in the summer and could not exercise or go to the sauna. I felt it quite quickly then and I feel it again after a month of falling off my self care routine. The colder months make it a lot more difficult keeping up with my daily step count because some days are too ugly to want to leave the house. They also close my sauna for several weeks each year for maintenance. I need my sauna.

My self care routine is my fight against rheumatoid arthritis. If I don’t take care of myself, RA wins. This last month and when I went through surgery during the summer I felt it. Each time is teaching me the importance of exercise and my routine to feel like I can function somewhat normally. From my experience now it takes about 2 weeks to get into the hang of things and start craving the gym again.

I find the days I do not exercise to be days I have higher pain, fatigue, lower mood and sleep worse. I also find I crave more junk food which quickly makes me feel worse. I need naps during the day more often than not, my cognitive dysfunction and memory suck. Lately my tailbone has been inflamed when I sit too long so my rheumatologist is sending me for an MRI of my spine to check for spondyloarthritis. My back pain is the worst out of any part of my body, I hope I find some answers with the MRI.

I must be cautious to not let the pain cycle win.

Now with December 3rd being International Day for People with Disabilities, where CBC featured me and two other individuals smashing the stereotype of their disability, me particularly because I do not look ill and smash the stereotype of arthritis. They talked about how I exercise despite all I got going on. Kind of made me realize I better get back into it, I can’t be all talk.

Actions speak louder than words and actions will help my health more than words.

What I do for exercise is 30-40 minutes on the elliptical 5-6 times a week and strength training at home because the weight room terrifies me, I use kettlebells or dumbbells, body weight, resistance bands, etc. I let each day tell me how I am feeling and what I can handle that day and I break up my exercises to not over extend myself at once and keep moving throughout the day. Days I am not hitting the gym I am going for a walk and doing stretches, yoga, because moving is better than not when living with RA.

I also meal prep healthy snacks, lunches, dinners and breakfasts for myself and occassionally my son. Feeding a 7 year old can be a challege.

I’ve handled a lot without exercise this last month, especially with adding in one day a week of work, a big accomplishment when on disability, I know my self care routine will make a world of difference for me. When I fall back it is a reminder to get back on track and move forward, every arthritic step.

Even one day in the gym and I feel the difference it makes in me. Day two and I am in the gym before the sun is up, that is a noteworthy accomplishment in winter with RA.