Emotional upset and feelings of loss — even despair — are often associated with chronic illness, and arthritis is no exception.

Arthritis can be debilitating physically — and this can lead to a very real sense of loss: loss of self-respect, sports or recreational activities, or even meaningful employment. Many arthritis sufferers experience depression, sleep disorders, loss of appetite, mood swings, poor self-image and drug or alcohol abuse.

Yet experts say there are things you can do to help overcome the emotional pain associated with arthritis. Here are some tips from the Arthritis Society.

7 basic tips to ease the emotional pain

1. Educate yourself.

As with any aspect of your health, having knowledge about your condition is key to managing your emotions and sense of control. Consult with your health care professionals and if possible, supplement this information by researching reliable sites online or at your local library.

2. Stay active.

Activity is a great cure for the blues. Make a list of goals and activities for the day — and do as many of them as you can. Don’t be too ambitious and make your list too long, as this is an invitation for failure — and more feelings of inadequacy. And finally, as much as possible, make sure to include activities on your list that you really like to do.

3. Keep a daily log to track pain, fatigue, sleep and activity.

Understanding fluctuations in your daily routine will help you to manage physical pain — and also give you a better sense of control over your life.

4. Make an effort to look your best.

It may sound trite, but the old saying ‘look good, feel good’ really does hold some truth. It can be as simple as trying a new hairstyle or taking a little more time with your attire.

5. Think positive thoughts.

Research shows that having a positive attitude can make a huge difference in promoting better health and an improved sense of well being. Try to focus on your accomplishments, no matter how small, and the things that make you happy. Look for the beauty in life, even in simple pleasures such as a sunset or a vase of flowers.

6. Be kind to yourself.

Insofar as possible, do the things you want to do – and forget the rest! Surround yourself with people you like and who accept you. If you do feel tired, give yourself a ‘day off’ without guilt about the things you ‘should’ be doing. Many of us are far kinder and forgiving of other people than we are of ourselves. A good rule of thumb for silencing your internal critic: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else.

7. Join a support group or online discussion board.

Reach out to others who are also dealing with the challenges of arthritis. Support groups can help to provide more information, coping tips, and reassurance. But if you do experience ongoing symptoms of depression, experts warn that it’s important to consult with your doctor.

Arthritis in Canada

More than four million Canadians are currently affected by arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in the country. Contrary to what many think, it can strike anyone of any age: in fact, according to the Arthritis Society, about 60 per cent of arthritis sufferers are under 65.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis caused by joint degeneration and inflammation. There is still no known cure, but for some, adopting a healthier lifestyle can help to manage most types of arthritis.

Additional source: Mayo Clinic