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After you were diagnosed with arthritis, you probably found yourself surrounded by doctors and healthcare professionals. Your loved ones, family and friends, tried their best to be there for you and give you support.

While you appreciate everything that they do for you, you also know that a big part of managing this disease is in your hands. Quite simply, self-management of arthritis is critical to maintaining your independence given your limitations and ensuring quality of life.

That said, here are five important self-management habits that you should cultivate—

1. Be meticulous about organization

Be proactive and take charge of your treatment plan. Start by keeping track of your symptoms, medications, any side effects that you’ve experienced, pain levels, and other necessary information that you think would be useful. Write it down in a notebook and make sure to bring it on your next appointment with a healthcare professional.

In-depth information about what you’re going through is more useful to doctors and physical therapists than you can imagine. It will help give you better treatment options and interventions.

2. Anticipate the pain and fatigue

Pain and fatigue are inevitable with arthritis and can become very overwhelming. Learn everything that you can about how you can best manage your symptoms. Read, talk to your doctor, start a conversation with healthcare professionals, or reach out a community of fellow arthritis sufferers.

3. Try to stay active

We know this is probably the last thing you want to do when you’re in pain, and understandably, there are days when it’s impossible to do so—but exercise is a proven way to manage arthritis. To be clear, staying active doesn’t mean you have to run sprints or jump hoops. Simply taking a 15 minute walk or doing some gentle stretching can help increase your range of motion, improve sleep quality, and boost your mood.

4. Rest if you need to

As arthritis sufferers, we all have this tendency of pushing ourselves too much. Perhaps it’s a way to prove to ourselves that we’re not being held back by our condition—but knowing what we can and cannot do is critical to successfully managing chronic pain. Arthritis sufferers get tired faster and have more physical limitations—that’s a fact. Pace yourself and learn to say no.

When it comes to sleeping, we know it can sometimes be a challenge for arthritis sufferers. However, there are things you can do so you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Avoid caffeinated drinks or any kind of strenuous activity in the evening. Try winding down with a warm bath a few hours before bedtime. Or you can try relaxation or meditation techniques. If you suspect that it’s your medication causing sleepless nights, raise it with your doctor—they might be able to adjust the timing of your medication in the interest of giving you a good night’s sleep.

5. Eat healthily

Eating healthily combined with exercise, helps keep our weight down, which means we’re putting less pressure on our joints. Plus, there are a lot of foods that you should avoid as it worsens inflammation.

Not to worry, there are a lot of delicious alternatives that you can try. For more information about arthritis and our recommended diet, you can also check out this video.

There are a lot of things you can do to manage arthritis. But starting with these 5 definitely goes a long way.

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