by Kate Lorig, RN, DrPH
There are also lots of ways of managing difficult emotions. One of the very best is positive thinking. Positive thinking does not mean denying your negative emotions and pretending that everything is OK. Rather, it means looking at the way you talk to yourself. We all do this. We give ourselves negative messages all the time: “I am too fat.” “Nothing will ever be the same.” “I can’t do anything.” Positive thinking means first identifying these thoughts and then reframing them. For example, you can say to yourself, “People tell me I have pretty eyes.” “I can’t run on the beach with the grandchildren, but they love it when I read to them.” “I can do 90% of what I want.” Learning positive thinking takes some time but is well worth the effort.
Another way of managing difficult emotions is to write them down. Keep a journal with a focus on your emotions. What makes you angry, sad, or frustrated? Write it down. You do not need to show what you write to anyone. It is just for you. We know that just the act of writing helps to improve emotions. Try it. You might surprise yourself.
A third stress buster is “signal breathing.” When you are feeling stressed or angry, simply take a couple of deep breaths. It may not seem like much, but it helps. It is called signal breathing because first you have to recognize the signal — how you are feeling — and then you have to breathe.
So let’s go back to learning how to live with arthritis. Throughout the country many organizations offer arthritis self-management programs that cover in detail many of the topics discussed in this article. If you’d like to learn more about the programs, see "Self-Management Programs." And always remember that you can do a lot about your arthritis by becoming a proactive self-manager.
Last Reviewed on June 1, 2011
Kate Lorig is Director of Patient Education at Stanford Arthritis Center and a Professor (Research) in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. She developed the Arthritis Self-Help Course sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation and is coauthor of The Arthritis Helpbook.
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