Sunday I decided to wage war against the backyard. Due to all of the rain we’ve been having here in New Jersey, the garden has been neglected for a few weeks. I have quite a few battle scars from trying to tame my roses, but everything looks beautiful now. The only problem is that on some days, yard work can seem like an impossible task for a person with RA. I’ve compiled my list of shortcuts here. They’re all common sense tips, but sometimes I feel like we try to kid ourselves into believing that we don’t need to modify our habits to accommodate RA.
1. Pick a cool day to work outside. Or work early in the morning or after sunset. That seems like a no-brainer, but the heat definitely affects me more now than it ever did before. I feel fatigued more quickly when the sun is out. The only reason I was able to work all day yesterday was because it was cloudy and windy.
2. Use sunblock anyway. We take medications that can make us more sensitive to sunlight. I’m on Plaquenil, and I will burn if I’m outside for even 5 minutes without sunblock. Just play it safe and put some on. Think of all of the wrinkles you’re preventing.
3. Take constant breaks. Work for 20 minutes, then take a break. Or do one task (like mowing the lawn) and then sit and rest. It helps with the fatigue and gives your joints a break from repetitive stress. Your body will thank you by not keeping you in bed the next day with a horrible flare.
4. Which is why it’s also helpful to break up tasks into days. Just like every other aspect of our lives, gardening sometimes needs to be done using baby steps. If all you’re capable of is mowing the lawn today, then that’s enough. See how you feel tomorrow. Your flowers won’t mind if you push back replanting them by an extra day.
5. Use good tools. It’s okay to spend a little bit more for them. I’ve come to realize that this is extremely important. I was using rusty garden shears to trim the roses. They were dull and put a lot of extra stress on my fingers, which made them lock up. I went to Home Depot and got myself a fancy new pair of ergonomic shears.
6. Use a chair and kneeling pad. Quite frankly, I don’t care if the neighbors think I’m crazy for trimming the plants while seated. I’ll take the judgement over the back pain. And for weeding and planting, I have cushioned kneeling board. That was also a worthwhile purchase.
Now they just need to invent grass that cuts itself…
All photos are my own.