12 Tips on Coping With Fibromyalgia
Sixteen years ago, my life forever changed not in the way I expected. However with time, patience, research and support, I learned how to navigate my “new normal" better.
Coping with fibromyalgia is always a work in progress as our bodies change and the conditions associated with FMS evolve in one way or another.
I would love to proclaim that life can be all it once was, but the truth is I have had to let go of the things that were too daunting. I have also had to find a different approach to embracing the things that I’ve always loved that are still possible.
Surprisingly, I have discovered new areas of life that I was too busy, structured or afraid to pursue. Honestly, had I not been forced to slow down once I began to experience flare-ups and diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I would not have pursued becoming a writer.
As I began journaling my experience through the difficulties of fibromyalgia, I discovered many ways to cope with all that this illness brings, and in the process also found fulfilling ways to thrive despite any setbacks that came my way.
12 Ways to Cope With Fibromyalgia
Write How You're Feeling in a Daily Journal
As I mentioned, journaling became a catalyst for a whole new life for me once I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. While this coping method may not be considered the most obvious coping tool – it is a helpful starting point.
Writing in a journal every day can become a great tool for self-inquiry. Once I began to keep track of symptoms, patterns and even emotions through the process, I started “connecting the dots."
I recognized a series of events that triggered fibromyalgia symptoms.
I took notice of how I felt after a night of poor sleep or how stressful situations affected me. Next, I learned about how certain foods triggered reactions. I began to write these instances down and discovered a pattern to when my flare-ups were at their worst.
Once we understand more about our bodies, flare-ups and our emotions we experience through pain and difficulty–we can better cope with our condition.
Keeping a journal also allows your doctor to narrow in on your symptoms so that he or she can tailor your medical care.
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.
Ask your physician’s office for leads to support groups in your community.