It seems as though we just put away last year's holiday decorations, doesn't it? Nevertheless, it's that time of year again. The holidays are stressful under the best of circumstances. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, navigating the holiday season may feel overwhelming. It doesn't have to be.

Maintain Your Routine

You've probably established a familiar routine that helps you manage the daily challenges of a chronic disease. It's easy to get off track with the extra responsibilities and activities that accompany holidays. Try to plan shopping, visiting and decorating around your normal routine. This helps to minimizes stress and prevent an arthritis flare up.

Maintaining a consistent schedule will also help you sleep better at night. If holiday stress disrupts your sleep, incorporate a few evening relaxation techniques. A warm bath before bed, for example, relieves muscle tension, eases aching joints and signals to your body it's time to sleep.

Keep Moving

When time is limited, exercise is often the first thing to go. However, the holiday season is not the time to skimp on your workouts. Regular exercise will help you manage your arthritis. It lessens pain, increases your range of motion, reduces fatigue, minimizes the likelihood of developing holiday-related depression, and makes you feel better overall.

If other activities waylay your workouts, schedule exercise just as you would any other important appointment. If you can't accommodate a 30 or 60-minute workout, break it into smaller, manageable chunks and fit it in wherever, and whenever, you can.

Need a little extra motivation? Sign up for your local Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell Walk/Run for Arthritis event. You'll raise money, support a good cause and have fun.

While it's important to keep moving, don't forget to protect your joints. Use the larger and stronger joints to lift and carry heavy items or use an assistive device.


A visit to the spa might seem like an indulgence, especially when you're so busy. Science is on your side. In one study of patients with knee osteoarthritis, for example, spa therapy reduced pain and improved functional capabilities. Like exercise, a simple massage decreases pain and increases circulation, energy and flexibility.

Smart Travel Planning

If your holiday celebrations include travel, plan ahead, stay organized and allow enough time to reach your destination. Avoid sitting for too long in one position. Take frequent breaks to stretch and move. Don't forget to carry your medications so they are readily available when you need them.