Tips for Living With Fibromyalgia
Starla and Adriel offer their tips and advice on living with fibromyalgia.
Change is something that is inevitable throughout life. Sometimes it is by choice, other times it is of necessity, and it is always challenging no matter the circumstance.
As a long-term sufferer of fibromyalgia, I’ve learned the importance of making lifestyle changes to better adjust to the health-imposed changes forced on me by this frustrating condition.
While life is not what we perceive as normal, finding a new “normal” can bring the joy back with time and effort. People often look at those dealing with fibromyalgia and think we look healthy, and that life is normal for us. I suppose that is because we have achieved the art of becoming great pretenders. We tend to fake it ‘til we make it, which can be exhausting.
However, there is a better option for us to take our lives back through simple steps of altering our lifestyle to make it more comfortable, manageable and enjoyable.
The Standard To-Do List for Fibromyalgia Sufferers
If you have been an FM sufferer for any length of time and have read even one article on how to better cope with fibromyalgia then you know there is a standard list of do’s and don’ts.
Before we discuss some of the more personal lifestyle changes, let’s recap the givens:
- Job changes. Explore the many options available. Did you know that you are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which means you're entitled to reasonable accommodation from your employer? If your symptoms are too severe, you may qualify for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (for those with a shorter work history). Also, talk to your employer about whether long-term disability insurance covers you and look into other disability benefits programs.
- Diet. This lifestyle change is more important than you can imagine. Those dealing with the chronic pain and fatigue that comes with fibromyalgia soon realize that certain foods serve as triggers. Caffeine, sugar, gluten, processed foods all serve as triggers for inflammation, bloating and more.
- Exercise. Even though debilitating fatigue and pain get worse with exertion, it is still imperative to implement some level of exercise into your life. The key is to be consistent about it and not overexert yourself. Over time, you may be able to increase the amount you're able to do.
- Sleep. Those of us suffering know that whether you sleep 16 hours in a day or six, you still wake un-refreshed. Talk to your doctor and explore options to improve sleep and beat fibromyalgia insomnia.
- Manage stress. Stress is the silent killer. Take some time to determine what your stress triggers are and take steps to manage those areas of life better.
- Find support. You may feel alone in the process sometimes as you try to cope with fibromyalgia, but there are others who truly understand. Seek out family, friends, and support groups.
Common Sense Solutions For A Better Lifestyle
Make Family Your First Priority
Simply put, if you don’t take care of yourself, then you will not be able to care for your family. If your family ends up being neglected because your actions leave you incapacitated, then something needs to change.
By consciously putting your family first, thinking of how your health challenges and coping techniques affect them, will help you better embrace suggested lifestyle changes.
Just Say No
Stop volunteering for everything and stop seeing yourself as the only one who can successfully complete all those important projects. Besides, those tasks probably aren’t as essential as they first appeared to be.
Saying "no" may be difficult at first, and some people will be offended that you’ve stopped volunteering. But your real friends will continue their support and love even when you say no.
Get Ready For the Day
Pajamas are so comfy, aren’t they? But they are equated with sleep or sickness and staying in bed. So do your best not to “look sick” every single day. Take a shower and get dressed. Maybe even fix your hair.
Tell yourself you won’t let fibromyalgia rob you of your dignity. Dress in a manner in which you would be comfortable going out in public. Even if you stay at home all day, without seeing anyone other than your family, you can improve your mental wellbeing by showing your chronic illness you aren’t sick enough to stay in pajamas.
Stop Being a Perfectionist
I have a confession: this one has been the most challenging for me. I find comfort in an organized, clean and spotless environment. However, the lack of energy and physical stamina prevent me from creating this “perfect” environment. I am learning to be happy with wiping down the bathroom counter instead of cleaning the entire room.
Remember that just because your body is behaving imperfectly doesn’t mean the rest of your life has to make up for it. Be kind and gentle, loving and forgiving of yourself. Embrace the moment with more joy and less stress realizing what truly matters and what doesn’t.
Be Honest With Others
Tell people if you’re having a hard day. I know it’s hard to do — I tried to hide it for many years. FM sufferers love acting like we’ve got it all together. But to truly improve our lifestyle, honesty is necessary.
Explain to those closest why you need to take it easy. Explain to your kids you need them to bring the groceries into the house because lifting the bags is too difficult. Ask a bagging clerk to help you to your car with your groceries even though they don’t think you look like you need it. Tell them why.
My final word of encouragement is this: don’t let suffering from fibromyalgia define you as a person. It is not who you are but what you have. You can live in spite of it and enjoy life with a few lifestyle changes.
Keep discovering more about yourself and what makes your life better. Don’t give up!