Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) doesn’t just affect your joints. It can also leave you feeling drained of energy. Over time, this can take a toll on your lifestyle and well-being.
The next time you feel fatigued, try one of these simple energy-boosting strategies.
Sometimes a simple change of scenery may be all you need to feel refreshed. When you’re bored or weary, take a short break from what you’re doing. Get up, walk to another room, and take part in another activity for a few minutes. For example, chat with a family member or co-worker, take the garbage out, or do some gentle stretching. If you’re worried about getting sidetracked, set a timer to let you know when your break is up.
RA isn’t the only possible culprit of fatigue. Low energy levels are also a common symptom of dehydration. If you’re feeling sluggish, drinking a glass of water or other hydrating beverage might help.
For the most nutritious options, choose drinks that are low in sugar, such as milk or unsweetened tea. According to the Arthritis Foundation, green, black, and white tea are rich sources of polyphenols, which have strong anti-inflammatory effects. Green tea might also help preserve cartilage and bone.
Low blood sugar can also contribute to low energy levels. If you haven’t eaten for a while, it might help to make yourself a nutritious snack or meal. A combination of complex carbohydrates and protein can help boost your energy, without setting you up for a sugar crash down the road. For example, a piece of whole-grain toast with nut butter or a serving of yogurt with fresh berries may be a satisfying choice.
Regular low-impact exercise can help you manage your weight, strengthen your muscles, and maintain your range of motion when you have RA. Exercise can also help wake you up and sharpen your mental processes, reports Monique Tello, MD, MPH, in the Harvard Health Blog. Even a short bout of physical activity may help you feel more alert and focused.
If you don’t have time for a full workout, consider taking a short walk around the block, climbing a few sets of stairs, or spending five minutes on a stationary bike or elliptical machine. Acute joint pain during exercise is a sign that you should stop. You might aggravate your RA by increasing existing joint damage or causing further damage.
Listening to music might also help boost your energy levels and promote positive thinking, suggests the Arthritis Foundation. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, listening to music might also help ease anxiety and decrease pain perception in some people. Consider making a playlist of favorite songs to keep on hand for times when you need a quick pick-me-up. Songs that evoke positive emotions or memories are likely a good choice.
If stress and anxiety are contributing to your fatigue, then deep-breathing exercises might help you achieve a state of greater calm and focus.
Start by sitting in a chair or on the floor with your back against a wall. Find a position in which you can sit comfortably, with minimal joint pain. Lengthen your spine, relax your ribs, and consciously relax the muscles in your face and jaw.
Close your eyes. Place one hand on your belly. As you breathe in, you should feel your belly rise. As you breathe out, you should feel your belly fall. Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe.
Practice this deep breathing exercise for at least 10 breaths.
RA-related fatigue can make it difficult to focus, motivate yourself, and participate in the activities that are important to you. The simple activities described above, however, might help you sharpen your attention, boost your mood, and increase your energy levels when they start to flag. It’s also important to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan, exercise regularly, eat a well-balanced diet, and get enough sleep at night.
If you suspect that your medication is contributing to fatigue, talk to your doctor. They might be able to recommend changes to your treatment plan.