Arthritis is often considered an inevitable part of aging. As we age, the cushioning between our joints erodes, causing arthritis pain when we walk, open bottles or do other things that require movement. While some of this may be inevitable, arthritis symptoms can be made worse by stress. If you have arthritis, it’s important to keep your stress levels under control in order to reduce your symptoms.

Stress can cause arthritis symptoms to flare up. Stress causes muscles to become tight and tense, which can add to any pain you are experiencing due to arthritis. In addition, stress can cause you to become negative and depressed, especially if you are dealing with a chronic condition like arthritis. When you’re depressed, all of your symptoms become magnified in your mind, making them even harder to deal with.

If you suffer from arthritis, get in the habit of focusing on gratitude. Thinking about all the things you love about your life can help take your mind off arthritis symptoms. It can be helpful to look around yourself and think about what you have to be grateful for when you first get up in the morning or when you begin to feel down about your symptoms.

Keep a record of all the good things that happen during the course of the day. If you’re having a pain-free day, celebrate it! Write down what you did and how much you enjoyed it. When you’re having a bad day, write down the things that went well and everything you appreciated about the day. Keeping this kind of journal can help keep your mind off of your symptoms.

In addition, it’s important to push yourself to spend time with friends and family. It’s okay to decline invitations to do things you just can’t do; if you have arthritis, you shouldn’t go hiking or engage in other extreme physical activity. However, you shouldn’t cancel all of your social engagements simply because you have arthritis. It’s difficult to tell in advance how bad your symptoms will be, and if you refuse to be social as a matter of course, you’ll get depressed.

Remember, too, that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Many people with arthritis stress themselves out by trying to do things that they just can’t do anymore. They’re afraid that their friends and family will see them as weak and they may even see themselves as deficient because they can’t do all of the things they used to do. However, if you ask for the help you need, you can make your life a lot easier. This also allows you to still see friends and family; they can bring you food and socialize with you at home if you aren’t feeling up to going out.

It’s natural to feel depressed when you first find out you have arthritis, but don’t let this become your dominant mood for the rest of your life. As you adjust to your diagnosis, return to being as positive a person as possible. The more you reduce your stress, the better you will feel.