12 Ways to Cope With Fibromyalgia
Reduce Stress When You Can
Studies have proven that stress is one of the primary triggers to fibro flare-ups.
Stress is a killer for healthy individuals and those diagnosed with a chronic illness. Many people with fibromyalgia experience feelings of anxiousness, nervousness and panic around the time when fibromyalgia symptoms flare.
Some experts found when fibromyalgia patients reduce stress in their lives, they also experience a reduction in depression, anxiety and fatigue levels.
This goes along with journaling as understanding your symptoms and triggers give you a more significant measure of control.
Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away
While we cannot walk away from every situation we face in our life, we can develop the skill of “walking away” emotionally so that we find a more balanced attitude about daily tasks and situations.
When you feel poorly, it tends to wear on your body and emotions until every circumstance in a day can appear insurmountable and loom over you. It becomes easy to magnify problems–making them seem far greater than they are.
Reaction to stress is triggered by perception. When you imagine something to be a “life or death situation,” (even though in reality it is not) your body reacts as if you are in danger.
Work at tempering your emotions as problems come up throughout the day.
Instead of seeing every crisis as a disaster, learn to view life’s interruptions as “inconvenient, but tolerable.” You will find that when you look at life as something that you can handle, you will not feel overpowered when trouble comes.
The familiar adage asks the question “how do you eat an elephant?” The answer of course – “one bite at a time.” If you can keep balanced emotionally through the situations, tasks, and activities of your day by breaking them up into smaller “bites,” you can walk away from those emotions that try to overpower you.
Make Modifications For Better Living
At the beginning of this article, I made mention of the “new normal” – things that you can no longer do, things you discover you have time and passion for doing, and things that you may need to alter or pace a bit so as not to lose them.
The key to maintaining control in your life is through modifying the way you approach work, family life and everyday tasks and activities. To avoid stress and anxiety, you may need to allow more time during the day to fully carry out your responsibilities.
If you are still trying to manage a job or career, talk to your employer. Work out a flexible schedule that allows you to come in later and leave later or ask your employer if you can work from home a few times a week so you can get more rest.
Alternatively, ask if you could take a nap at lunchtime to boost your energy. If you are a stay-at-home parent or a caregiver, learn to adjust your schedule given your energy level from day-to-day.
Plan the most tedious tasks around the time of day that your energy level is highest. Whatever modifications you make, avoid procrastination. Budget your time, follow your daily to-do lists and limit your outside commitments on workdays or days when you have more family or personal responsibilities.
Talk It Out–Communicate With Others
It makes sense that if journaling is a key starting point to understanding and coping, then communicating with others about what you are dealing with is also a vital means of dealing with your ever-changing situation. Open and honest communication helps reduce conflict and misunderstanding between you and your family, friends and others.
Sometimes we feel angry and resentful while dealing with chronic pain and fatigue.
There is a feeling of despair and frustration when we find ourselves falling behind in activities and tasks with those we love or with those we work with. Everything that once benefited from our energy and attention is pushed to the background, and we find we are mentally distracted and preoccupied with our illness.
At times we become so overwhelmed that we shut ourselves off from others and shut down necessary communication. Those around us cannot fully understand or even provide the necessary help we need if we do not find the courage to communicate with full transparency what we are going through.
It is surprising how often those around us wish to help, but because we are ashamed to ask or let them see our vulnerable moments, we find ourselves at odds with them and our condition.
If you don’t know where to start in communicating with others and feel overwhelmed with the stress of fibromyalgia, seeking the advice of a professional counselor can help you develop appropriate strategies to deal with your condition and other issues in your life.
Gaining back a measure of control will also help you better communicate with those around you.
Seek Out Support
Beyond professional counselors, no one understands what you are going through better than someone who is walking a similar journey. Online networks such as this are a great source of insight and support. Also, many communities have fibromyalgia support groups that meet weekly.
Remember to Rest and Relax
At the end of each evening, I reach out to loved ones and give them my wishes to “sleep well and have sweet dreams.”
This is something that I desire for myself as well, but through the years of dealing with fibromyalgia, I’ve learned that sufficient sleep is often hard to come by. Part of coping with your condition and flare-ups hinges on how well you sleep at night.
There are things you can do to promote the chances of better sleep:
- Make sure your body is prepared for rest. You can’t sleep if there is light in your room or if a television is blaring in another room.
- Make sure your room is quiet, dark, and cool. Use earplugs if you are sensitive to noise, and use a blackout blind or wear an eye mask to block light.
- Eliminate afternoon caffeine from your diet, and exercise regularly – although not near bedtime. Sometimes a snack that is high in carbohydrates can help induce sleep because it boosts levels of serotonin in your body, a chemical messenger that helps regulate mood, appetite and sleep.
Take Care of Yourself First
Many of us who struggle with the changes that fibromyalgia brings, are so accustomed to going, doing, and serving others that taking time to care for ourselves seems foreign to us. Still, the only way to cope with life with fibromyalgia and still be what we desire to be for others is to take care of ourselves.
Below are some tips for doing just that.
Learn to Say “No”
This one is especially difficult for me as I find joy in being there for others. Still, failing to set personal limits or saying “yes” to too many demands will make you feel overloaded. That will add to your already elevated stress level.
To help yourself say “no” to a persuasive friend or activity, think through the situation before you answer. Check your calendar, and weigh the alternatives. Involve family members or friends in the discussion about what to do.
Would another commitment stop you from getting the rest, exercise, and relaxation you need to feel well? Would it interfere with the priorities that are high on your list?
The desire to help others is commendable, but being all things to all people may hinder your healing and make you feel resentful, tired, and depressed. It is important to take a firm stand, so say “no,” and mean it.
Make Time for Yourself Each Day
Work towards achieving an overall lifestyle balance. Make time to do the things you “want” to do as well as the things you “have” to do. People with fibromyalgia are faced with special demands that other healthy people do not have.
The task of coping with fatigue and pain each day makes it necessary to keep your priorities in order, so you have the energy to reach your daily goals.
I penned a motto several years ago after dealing with the struggles of fibromyalgia and the resulting lifestyle change it forced on me. It simply states, “the being energizes the doing.” When we take time to relax and enjoy simple pleasures for ourselves, it recharges us, so to speak, so that we have renewed energy for the daily task and people in our lives.
An exercise routine is important for coping and easing symptoms of fibromyalgia. Because of the pain, trigger points and tender points, ongoing fatigue, and stiffness felt by people with fibromyalgia, many have become physically unfit.
Aerobic or conditioning exercises – such as walking, swimming, and cycling – have analgesic and antidepressant effects. Aerobic exercise can help enhance your sense of well-being and feeling of being in control.
Your doctor should be able to help in designing a program that is right for you and possibly even prescribing exercise therapy at a rehab, gym, or other facilities. I developed a routine of walking many years ago, and it not only became a great source of relief physically but emotionally – that quiet time on my “stroll” was an oasis away from the struggles I faced for a while.