Finding time to get away from everyday pressures is essential for all of us to recharge our batteries and connect with ourselves. No matter your lifestyle or routine, everyone needs a break now and then.
Striking a balance between productivity and rest looks different for everyone. Still, it can be especially tricky when living with a long-term condition like rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Stress, fatigue, a change in diet, and extended periods of sitting still can all impact your condition, both at work and on vacation.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get away and have a fantastic time! You can have the best of both worlds by caring for yourself at work and knowing how to plan your trips.
Check out our guide for top tips on managing your rheumatoid arthritis all year round.
Finding balance when living with rheumatoid arthritis
In addition to sticking to a treatment plan and remembering to take medications, you can self-manage your rheumatoid arthritis by practicing proven strategies to boost your immune system and reduce pain and inflammation.
These strategies include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, improving sleep hygiene, and managing emotional well-being through mindfulness.
Keeping on top of your condition while also tackling fatigue can be challenging, especially when your symptoms are affected by factors beyond your control, like atmospheric pressure, temperature, and humidity.
So, how can you stay organized and active while also leaving room for self-care and recovery year-round? Let’s first look at the best workplace practices that will allow you to embrace wellness at work.
Ways to manage rheumatoid arthritis in the workplace
Balancing activity and rest at work is essential. Listen to your body and slow down or stop when you feel pain. But remember, too much inactivity can lead to poor movement patterns and increased discomfort. Find the right balance for you.
Inform your colleagues
We recommend informing your manager and colleagues about your condition. Understandably, you may wish to keep your condition to yourself, but sharing it with your colleagues may make it easier to manage stress and ask for support at work.
Seek available support
In some circumstances, your employer may even have a responsibility to make accommodations for you. These could include providing you with an adjustable table if you have back pain or allowing you to take breaks to go for a walk or do some stretching.
Know your rights
Whether or not you decide to disclose your condition, it’s essential to find out your workplace policy on sick pay and time off for medical appointments. This will give you a better sense of your flexibility in dealing with flares and routine check-ups.
Take a practical approach
Try breaking your tasks into smaller chunks if you can. When faced with multiple tasks, try starting with the most demanding before moving on to the easier ones. Always make it a habit to rest before you become too tired; that way, you’ll have more energy to continue.
How do the seasons impact rheumatoid arthritis?
Before we talk about planning those all-important vacations, it’s time to take a quick look at the influence of seasonal variation on disease activity. It might inform when, where, and how you book your next trip.
Some people report that pain and symptoms, like tender joint counts, worsen during cold, rain, and low atmospheric pressure periods. Others say that flares occur when it is humid or hot outside. Unfortunately, studies into the effects of weather on rheumatoid arthritis are sparse, but there is some evidence to consider.
A 2019 study of more than 12,000 people with rheumatoid arthritis concluded that symptom flares in the small joints of the hands and feet occurred most often in the spring and winter.
In a smaller 2020 study, researchers found that extreme temperatures in the summer and winter significantly impacted symptoms. So, why might this happen?
An increase or decrease in atmospheric pressure, also known as barometric pressure, can cause the tendons, muscles, and scar tissue to expand and contract, creating pain in joints affected by arthritis.
High humidity levels can cause sweating and dehydration, increasing blood pressure and decreasing the amount of fluid around the joints, resulting in more joint pain.
It’s been suggested that low temperatures may increase the thickness of joint fluids, making them stiffer and perhaps more sensitive to pain in cold weather.
Remember, everyone’s experience with rheumatoid arthritis is different. It’s important to work towards identifying and understanding your own triggers so that you can confidently manage your condition, no matter where you are and what you’re doing.
Top rheumatoid arthritis travel tips
Now that we’ve discussed how to manage your condition at work and know the possible effects of the changing seasons on your rheumatoid arthritis, it’s time to move on to booking that vacation!
Traveling with rheumatoid arthritis brings some challenges. But, with thoughtful planning and packing, you can maximize your downtime and enjoy the break you deserve.
#1. Consult your doctor
Before going anywhere, speak with your doctor. Be sure that your vaccinations are up to date, and ask about any changes to your medication routine. Steroids could help if you experience a flare, and antibiotics could be handy if you get an infection. You might also ask for a doctor’s note or an extra copy of your prescription.
#2. Keep an eye on the climate
You know your own condition best. Consider the climate of where you’re traveling and how it may affect you. Humidity and temperature may aggravate your symptoms. If heat is a concern, check the forecast and travel at the time of year that will suit you.
#3. Maximize available support
Airlines, hotels, and rental companies will be happy to help; you just have to tell them what you need. Airlines can offer pre-boarding and motorized escorts through the airport. Some rental car companies offer cars with swivel seats, spinner knobs, and other hand controls, and hotels have accessible ground-floor rooms.
#4. Tips for transit
Traveling mid-week or off-peak might help you avoid long lines at the airport. Book an aisle seat, so it’s easy to stretch your legs. Try to keep bags light and easy to carry. Include medications in your carry-on luggage with ice packs to keep them cool. An extra pillow can make your journey more comfortable.
#5. Accommodation is key
Your hotel will be your home for a while; make sure it offers everything you need. If you have medications that need to be kept cool, look for a room with a fridge, for example.
Consider booking somewhere near an outdoor space or a park so you can get some fresh air, find a quiet spot for mindfulness, or do some light exercise to relax and look after your joints.
#6. Focus on your food plan
Changing your routine or traveling to another time zone can disrupt your appetite. Make sure you stick to healthy foods and don’t skip mealtimes. Carry healthy snacks, drink plenty of water, and limit your alcohol and caffeine intake, as they can aggravate inflammation. Choose a destination with food options that suit your dietary requirements.