I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2010. It was not what I expected, but it helped explain the years and years of pain I was experiencing on a daily basis.

Like most people, I jumped right into medication with my doctor. And before you think I’m going to start bashing medication, let me stop you right there. Medication was definitely a part of my healing journey. <FULL STOP> It wasn’t all of it though. While the medication helped for a time being, it didn’t do it all. I found myself in a cycle of having the medication work, then not work, then increasing dosage, and repeat…

I was getting tired of it, and felt that there had to be more I could do for myself.

There was more I could do, and here are the other things that helped me heal, and experience less pain each day.

Getting More Rest

As I continued to get sicker, I realized my body needed more sleep and rest. While I seemed to thrive in my early 20s with fairly little sleep, those days were over. My body needed 9+ hours of sleep to feel functional. Instead of beating myself up about being tired at night after a long day at work, I rested. I had to learn to recognize the signs that my body was tired and needed a break. This was a tough concept for me as the word “lazy” had become a trigger word, and any action I made that resembled that word would send me down a shame cycle.

The more I learned about how the body heals and restores, the more I embraced the knowledge that our bodies NEED sleep and rest in order to heal. Plain and simple.

Finding & Removing Foods that made me feel Terrible

I began this whole healing journey as a beer drinking, bread loving human. The idea of taking those away just plain sucked. What I had learned as a chronic dieter for weight loss was that quitting anything cold turkey didn’t work for me. (And it doesn’t work for a lot of people!) I entered into the world of anti-inflammatory eating knowing that I needed to take things at my own pace if I wanted to do some form of this for a long time. I made small changes, removing foods that I had learned could be causing my inflammation, and ultimately my joint pain. I dabbled back and forth, reintroducing foods that I was missing. When I would be met with pain for days after, it was a reminder to me that that food wasn’t so great for me. I needed A LOT of these reminders, but ultimately, I found which foods I could enjoy and feel good, and which foods made me feel like trash.

Incorporating Foods that helped me Heal

While I was working on removing certain inflammatory foods, I looked into where I could add more nutrients. I did juicing for about a year or so which definitely packed a nutrient dense punch, but I was doing it in a way that was also adding more sugar than what was appropriate for me. I added in bone broth and collagen after learning about the gut healing benefits. I began purchasing grass-fed beef, pastured pork and free range eggs from local farmers to get in healthier sources of protein. I chose to purchase most of my produce as organic. These simple, but impactful changes helped ensure that I was getting in quality nourishment for my body.

Managing Emotional & Physical Stress

This was one of the toughest thing I had to learn how to do, but it made the biggest impact on my health. I worked a demanding job that required me to work long hours. I felt like I had to be constantly “on” and never truly disconnected from my work. Outside of the office, I was involved in a couple associations that required a lot of my time as well. On top of that, I exercised a lot. Whether it was in my boot camp class or I was on my horse. I kept my body going far beyond what I could sustain. I began to notice that the more stress I got, the worse my joint pain got.

Making that observation, I started to look at what I could release. I decided the intense boot camp workouts needed to go, and began doing yoga when it felt good to me. The joint pain started to ease up. Next, I cut back on my hours at work, then ultimately left that job. The joint pain eased up some more. I began to not freak out about whether I was eating perfectly or not. Again, the joint pain eased up.

These days, when I feel stressed out and that joint pain follows, I know it’s my body telling me that perhaps something needs to be relaxed or let go of. It’s become my meter for measuring what is worth taking on in my life and what isn’t.

I come back to the areas of rest, stress management and food whenever I’m feeling that my body needs support. I observe what life and my habits have looked like lately and get curious about where I could make some shifts. This isn’t a time to beat myself up and make judgments on my behavior, but to simply notice.

If you’re dealing with chronic stress and inflammation, I invite you to look at these areas in your life and see if there are shifts that you can make to help you heal. Release the idea that you have to do all the things all the time, and see if there are minor changes that are doable for you.

Do you notice that certain habits have a tendency to make you feel bad? What about those habits that feel good to you? I’d love for you to share what you’ve noticed about yourself in the comments below!