Zero day and arthritis

Zero Day TV Room via Flickr

Saturday night.

8:00 pm.

I’ve spent the entire day on the floor, propped up against my couch so I could watch TV. It’s one of those days where my ankle arthritis was really inflamed and stiff so doing just about anything was out the window.

When my ankle hurts, it causes my knees and hips to ache as well because I limp when walking around. I compensate so much for my bad ankle that my knees, hips, and left ankle bear more of my bodyweight, so they get fatigued as well. That’s how I ended up on the floor all day.

Too sore to move.

While this doesn’t happen as often as it use to, it’s still something I have to deal with as a result of my osteoarthritis. But when those days do happen, it can be mentally draining to think about wasting the entire day sitting on my couch, or floor, instead of hanging out with friends or family, going backpacking and fishing in the mountains, or just doing daily activities

Arthritis and fishing

Something I can’t do when my ankle osteoarthritis flares-up

Days like these can feel like a huge waste. Even the smallest task takes so much more energy and focus to accomplish. To get through these days, I needed to figure out a way to accept that they’re gong to happen and not allow them to get me down. I had to embrace my Zero Day.

What’s a Zero Day?

Well, to be honest, I stole the term from backpacking. When backpackers say they are taking a “zero day,” they are referring taking a rest day on long hikes where zero miles are traveled. On a zero day, backpackers can sightsee in the area they are resting, clean and repair backpacking gear, or simply do nothing at all. I tend to do the latter when my ankle arthritis flare-up, so a zero day seems like an appropriate term.

Zero Day on a Backpacking Trip

Zero Day on a Backpacking Trip

Learning to embrace my Zero Day wasn’t easy and it took a fair bit of time. After a little trial and error, I came up with 3 main elements I wanted to focus on so my Zero Days wouldn’t feel like a complete waste.

Emotional Element

Dealing with the thought of going through another day in various amounts of pain can be mentally draining. It really does suck when you realize it’s going to be one of those days.

I can tell pretty early in the day that it’s going to be a zero day. On these days, I’ve found just sitting in silence for a few minutes helps me mentally prepare. Hardly anything of value comes from these days and they tend to pass very slowly, so I try to mentally prepare of a long, most likely boring day ahead.

When I played basketball in college, the hours leading up to a game I would really try and become more focused by thinking about the game and practices in order to get my mind ready. I’ve taken a similar approach for my zero days. It’s an easy and quick way for me to head into the day with a clear mind and slightly better mood!

Physical Element

Even though my entire lower body is usually sore, I try to do some type of movement throughout the day. A few simple stretches for my legs, back, and upper body helps me physically and mentally feel better. If I were to sit on the couch all day, my entire body wouldn’t feel very good, but by doing a few stretches and focusing on the parts of my body unaffected by the arthritis, I tend to feel better and loose at the end of the day. I also try to eat healthy, not just to avoid the food that cause inflammation, but when I eat better, I feel better as well.

Action Element

Make a To Do list. Seriously. It seems counterintuitive to make a to do list on a Zero Day, but a lot can really be accomplished. For instance, here’s an example of a few things I have on my list:

  • Binge watch Game of Thrones (Nope, haven’t watched this one yet) or something on Netflix
  • Finish the book I’m reading or start a new one
  • Check out some trails for the my next backpacking trip
  • Research new treatments to test out for helping to cope with my arthritis
Frank Underwood probably has arthritis.

Frank Underwood probably has arthritis.

See, there’s nothing much there, but at least when the day is over I can cross a few things off and I feel like I’ve accomplished something. And this helps with the emotional element mentioned as well: You were able to do a few things even when your arthritis really hurt, so the day wasn’t a complete waste! It’s these small victories that go a LONG way when living with arthritis.

Just remember, fill the list with simple, easy to achieve activities – no need to add extra stress by doing taxes or some other unpleasant work.

Finally, I make it a point to remember your Zero Days as you learn to live with arthritis. During those times when your arthritis isn’t bringing you down, it’s good to take a look back on those Zero Days and feel a little better and more upbeat when your body is moving around!

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