5 Effective Ways to Cope with Loneliness When Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis Blog by Anita Dowdle Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be challenging, not only because of the physical pain and limitations it imposes but also because it can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. The chronic and invisible nature of the disease, combined with the potential difficulties in engaging in social activities, can make it harder to maintain social connections. However, it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there are several strategies you can employ to cope with loneliness effectively. 1. Build a Support Network One of the most important steps to combat loneliness is to build a strong support network. Seek out people who understand your condition and can empathize with your experiences. Join local groups or online communities dedicated to rheumatoid arthritis. You can join one of our local NRAS groups, online JoinTogether groups, or call in to the NRAS Helpline at 0800 298 7650. These platforms provide an opportunity to connect with others who are facing similar challenges and can offer valuable support and advice. Additionally, consider reaching out to family, friends, and loved ones for emotional support. Sharing your feelings with understanding individuals can significantly alleviate feelings of loneliness. 2. Engage in Social Activities Despite the limitations that sometimes come with RA, engaging in social activities is important and can help you deal with feelings of loneliness. Look for events or groups that cater to individuals with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Many organisations offer inclusive activities such as adaptive sports and art classes. Participating in these activities not only helps to combat isolation but also provides opportunities to meet new people who can relate to your experiences. You could also consider inviting friends or family members for low-impact activities at home, such as movie nights or board game nights, to stay connected and maintain a sense of belonging. Just remember to pace yourself so that you’re not left exhausted and fatigued the next day. 3. Use Technology The digital age has brought us closer than ever before, and technology can be an excellent tool for combating loneliness. Explore online platforms, such as social media groups or forums such as HealthUnlocked which is dedicated to rheumatoid arthritis. Engaging in discussions, sharing experiences, and offering support to others can foster a sense of community and connection. Additionally, video calls can be a great way to stay in touch with loved ones who may not be physically present. Virtual gatherings and online events allow you to participate and socialise from the comfort of your own home, this can help keep you connected if you’re having a bad flare day. 4. Seek Professional Help Living with RA can take a huge toll on your mental well-being, and the additional feelings of loneliness can increase feelings of anxiety or depression. Seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor who specialises in chronic illness can provide valuable guidance and support. Consider reaching out to The Wren Project, who provide free 1:1 emotional support for those living with autoimmune diseases. Therapy sessions can help you develop coping mechanisms, manage negative emotions, and explore techniques to enhance your overall well-being. Remember, reaching out for professional help is a sign of strength and will help you in the long run. 5. Focus on Self-Care When battling loneliness, it is important to prioritise self-care. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as reading, listening to music, or practicing meditation. Take care of your physical health by continuing to take your medication, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise. When you prioritise your well-being, both physically and emotionally, you increase your resilience and ability to cope with the challenges of rheumatoid arthritis and the impact of loneliness.