Cheat Sheet: How To Survive A Flare (Call For Suggestions)

cheat sheetSometimes it feels as if flares are the most difficult tests of all. While I often go into a flare thinking that I know all of the answers, sometimes this just doesn’t seem to matter. In those moments when the pain is at its worst and when I am feeling completely overwhelmed, I sometimes draw a mental blank – and have next to no idea what I need to do in order to keep moving forward.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy found himself in the above situation just a few weeks ago. This time around my experience was very different than previous ones, though.

Just when I was reaching my lowest point, when I was grasping for something – anything – that I could grab onto in order to orient myself and when my anxiety felt like the weight of the world bearing down on me, I sat down and started writing.

I wasn’t writing in any coherent manner. I was not writing a journal entry, or a blog post that I could publish the following day. Instead, I told myself that I needed to sit down a create a cheat sheet that would get me through the rest of the day (and hopefully, through the rest of the flare).

I ended up referring back to my cheat sheet quite often during the week following my low point. It did indeed help me to focus, and it helped me to maintain my determination to get through my flare. My cheat sheet helped me pass this test with flying colors.

The following are just some of the notes that I jotted down onto my cheat sheet that day:

I am being proactive. I am not letting this get the best of me, even though it is trying to.

I have a strong support group around me. I am reaching out to that support group.

Even though my anxiety is rising, I am reacting sooner and preventing a full-blown anxiety attack. Focusing on my breathing helps.

I am much more than just my pain.

I have gotten through similar episodes in the past. I will get though this episode. I will get through similar episodes in the future.

Everything is going to be okay.

I just had lunch. I sat at the dining table. I used my special fork and knife. It is okay to use both of my hands to pick up my glass of water.

Even though I have been going through a good stretch during the past two weeks, I am already preparing myself for the next flare. My aim, as always, is not to be pessimistic. Instead my goal is to be realistic…and ideally, be just a little more prepared my next flare.

I revisited my cheat sheet yesterday, and thought that I should turn it into something nicer – something that I could print out and place in a convenient location, so that I could easily pull it out and refer to it, next time I need to.

Then, I thought, it would be nice if I published this cheat sheet here on my blog, so that others too could use it during their flares.

I will soon start updating my cheat sheet..but before I do so, I want to ask you, my readers, to please submit (via blog comment or email) any suggestions that you might have – statements, actions, prayers, or affirmations that work particularly well during your worst RA moments. They need not be just from the individual who are directly living with RA and similar autoimmune diseases. Family members, friends, and caregivers are right by our side as we cope with the ups and downs, and they too struggle with our flares. It would be great to include some suggestions from them as well.

This way, we can end up a cheat sheet that works for all of us – and through the process, maybe each one of us can discover some new secrets for coping with a flare.

I look forward to publishing this cheat sheet soon!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

11 Comments
11 comments
  1. Jules says:

    We know that flares have an end point. We can’t know when but we can remind ourselves (repeatedly if needed) that “This too will pass”

    Heat is my friend- in any form- Thermacare, heating pad, hot water, paraffin, and if you can stand it- heavy blankets. Snuggle down and enjoy.

    I am stronger than my RA. It might take the use of my hands, my feet, my hips, my whatever- but it cannot touch my mind.

  2. Sherlock says:

    “this too shall pass” is good to remember. I take 5 minutes to reflect several times a day on the last flare and how long it lasted and how it’s been since it was that bad. I also, like most people, have flares that are worse than others and I focus on those for a minute or two and compare with the current flare. Fortunately the really bad flares aren’t that often so mostly the current flares compare favorably at least a little bit. If the current one is worse, then I tell myself it’ll go in the book of records for future comparisons (a little humor helps).

    Other than that, I use lots of escape strategies. I can get into a good book and the time flies by. As long as I don’t move and I’m totally into the book, the pain is on the backburner for a while. When I’m really into a good book, in the right setting (fireplace, warm blanket, hot tea and so forth) then the phone can ring right beside me and I won’t even notice.

    Sometimes work or writing can get me in that zone where I’m just totally unaware of everything around me and the time passes quickly. When I’m working on a webpage, for example, three hours can go by in what seems like 10 minutes. All’s quiet and still and the pain, while it doesn’t go away, is in the back of my mind instead of screaming in front of my face.

    I think everyone needs a “zone” where they can escape the vicious and constant pain at least for a little while. And when it’s very bad, even 10-15 minutes can be just enough relief to make it through the next couple of hours.

    I’m enjoying your blog, by the way. Got it on my google reader and never miss a post!

  3. sara says:

    I try to draw on my yoga/meditation practice and focus on the idea of equanimity- having no attachments and no aversions. It always reminds me of grandmother because it is something she said to me once and that brings me comfort.

    and hot baths (though depending on the flare, someone else may need to draw it for you)

  4. Laurie says:

    Depending on the day, (Think Florida and Hot flashes) cold is my better friend than heat. Heat, when I use it is usually a warm kitty on my lap or foot or hands..they have an uncanny knack of knowing where to lie on whatever is sore.Now that would be perfect if they didn’t snore or shed! Petting them seems to take the stiffness out of my hands, and as a second benefit, calms me down.

    Remember that most flares are short lived, intense at first, but will fade away.

    Eating fresh fruit such as raspberries, cherries and blueberries seem to help decrease the inflammation.

    If I am flaring and I have to use a medicated balm, gel, ointment I will remember with each breath of menthol that my joints are cooling off.

    I always try to remember that I am so much better off than my grandparents and other relatives who suffered RA 40-50 years ago, and am thankful for new medical options and treatments.

    I also remember that I have a whole computer full of Superheroes like me, they keep me grounded.

  5. Lana says:

    I have been limping for a month now, and it hurts. Sometimes, it makes me want to cry, but I pray and think of my children. I think how no matter what they need me to be strong. They are my strength, and they remind me that even though I am not perfect, I am perfect in their eyes. In their eyes, I am a superhero, and I have no kyptonite. Those are the things that keep me going. And prayer, you can a lot strength in prayer. I have learned that the flareups are a minor set back in life, but they can’t stop me from everything I have to do – work, study, and take care of my family. It is hard to walk around the grocery store, but I now go to smaller stores, memorize where everything I need is, and well, I plan That is all we can do. I plan that I will have setbacks, and I always have a plan

  6. dandy_candi says:

    A little thought I try and hold onto on a bad day is that pain is only remembered.
    It’s my body telling me to slow down, that nothing is urgent and the world will go on spinning if I take a minute (or more) to relax.

  7. cateepoo says:

    - I allow myself to cry as needed.
    - I write.
    - I talk with close friends and family.
    - I remind myself that I am doing a lot of good things for my body and tell myself, “my body is healing.”
    - I research new ideas.
    - I rest and find the good that comes from rest.
    - I visualize myself without a flare. This does wonders for me.
    - And, somtimes I drink an extra glass of wine!

  8. Pamela says:

    I just remind myself that “pain is weakness leaving my body.” I have no idea why, but it always helps. And I completely agree w/Cateepoo – a little glass of wine always helps. ;-)

  9. Linda Mooney says:

    RA Guy my mantra is ” I may have RA, but RA does not have me.”

    Sometimes it is tough, but I always manage to make it through, ice is my weapon of choice, I think of this monster just melting upon its application, and somehow, someway all my pain melts too.

    Thank you for your blog!

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