Living with fibromyalgia

Living with fibromyalgia

Living with fibromyalgia

The effects of this chronic condition can and do impact on a person’s overall lifestyle. Affecting the body, it has a direct impact on your ability to perform even the most basic of things, such as movement or even just sitting still.

As a result, adjustments to lifestyle become just as important as adhering to a very specific dosage of medication. You will need to be more mindful of a variety of different things that can impact or aggravate sensitive areas of your body. Anything and everything you do, interact with or even eat is going to impact your body in some way, shape or form.

Self-care management will include the following:

  • Stress reduction: You will need to be more mindful of things that cause you unnecessary strain or emotional stress. Anything that causes overexertion will also need to be carefully limited or avoided altogether. Stress management techniques which you can learn through counselling or medication, yoga and Tai Chi practices can help with this. Try a variety of different things and see what best works for you. The goal is to reduce your stress levels in the most comfortable way possible. If you are too restrictive with your methods, you may not accomplish your goal and your overall quality of life will take strain.
  • Learning to pace yourself: With this chronic condition, there is no point in trying to rush relief. You will have better days and you will have others where your symptoms feel worse. No treatment is likely to rid symptoms completely. Take each day as it comes and pace yourself through activities, exercises and other methods of treatment in moderation. Too much of something, even if it’s a good thing, may not necessarily do you any good. Patience and moderation will become key ways you can live your life in the best ways possible. It is important to take care not to cross a line and indulge in doing too little or being too self-limiting or restrictive, especially on days when symptoms are at their worst. Keep a healthy pace going. In time, you’ll be able to work out where your boundaries are and what you can effectively cope with. Stay positive.
  • Adjustments to exercise routines: A ‘knee-jerk reaction’ may be to want to avoid exercise for fear of exacerbating effects of pain. Your thinking may appear to be supported by experiencing pain when engaging in an exercise activity (at first). Participating in an exercise activity at a gradual pace, on regular occasions can actually help to build strength, stamina and ultimately alleviate symptoms of pain. Effective exercises that promote well-being and help alleviate pain, are low aggravating physical activities (low-intensity) such as walking, biking, swimming and water aerobics. Try them all or one or two and see which ones work best for you. The best-case scenario will be a selection of activity that reduces pain and stiffness, alleviates stress and gives you a better sense of control over your condition. A physical therapist can also help with stretching, posture and relaxation exercises and techniques which you can practice at home to help your symptoms of pain as well.
  • Getting enough sleep: Tiredness and fatigue is the second most complained about symptom of fibromyalgia other than physical pain. Finding ways to ensure sufficient sleep is a big one to find a solution for and can have a dramatically improved effect on your health overall if you can find a means to achieve this. Good sleeping habits are essential. If going to bed and getting up at set times helps, stick to it. If daytime napping does not help you to feel adequately rested, refrain from doing so. Do what you can to make your bedroom an appealing sleep sanctuary. Sometimes keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet helps. You might also find that distractions, such as a television are best kept out of your bedroom. You can make it a rule that your bedroom is reserved for sleeping only and is not a place for late-night series watching.
  • Watching what you eat: Food is fuel. Food can also have inflammatory effects and worsen physical pain. Adopt healthier and more nutritious foods in your diet that promote healing and provide nourishment. Avoid foods that aggravate your digestive system, and limit others, such as caffeine, that can have poor effects on your overall health. Caffeine can compound stress, as well as stimulate the heart and central nervous system, which can aggravate symptoms of anxiety, nervousness and insomnia. There is no specific diet that is recommended for this condition. If your diet is lacking something you’ll feel worse off and your symptoms may increase in frequency and intensity. Healthier options and plenty of water should leave you with more energy and an improved overall condition. Listen to your body and consume more of what makes you feel good and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Avoid or limit what does not.

Stress reduction

Other tips for coping with the condition

  • Relaxation and ‘me-time’: You may find that the need to achieve balance in your life is necessary on a daily basis. To help combat your health (physical) challenges, find things that give you a little bit of a ‘time-out’ each day. This helps reduce stress levels and feelings of anxiety. Music or some time engaging in a hobby can be effective ways to deviate the mind and promote relaxation. A hot bath can also help relax tense muscles in the body, and also alleviate mild pain. If you have difficulty getting in and out of a bath tub, a regular sauna can have the same effect. You can make you own by placing a stool in a closed shower to soak up a little moist heat. This can sometimes help promote a better night’s sleep too.
  • Keep a notebook: Problems with short-term memory can be solved by keeping a pen and pad of paper handy. To-do lists can help you to remember things you wish to do during the day, as can shopping lists, reminders of special occasions, names and important phone numbers or addresses. You can also use a journal to keep track of your symptoms or activities and mood changes. If you’re unsure of your pain triggers, for instance, a journal can help you and your doctor to determine what may be worsening your symptoms. For some cold or humid weather, or too little or too much physical activity may appear to trigger pain. In this way, you can adopt better coping strategies that alleviate symptoms.
  • Finding a compromise in your place of work: Earning a living can prove a little tricky at times. You may find that long days exhaust you and add to your symptoms of pain. It may come down to your choice of career or working environment. If possible you could also work out a compromise with your employer try and work from home on a part-time basis to ensure more productive working hours in your day. You can ensure that wherever your working environment is, that you rearrange it in such a way that it places the least amount of stress on your body as possible. You can also help your employer and colleagues better understand the effects of an environment on your body (from a medical perspective) and why you need things in a certain way in order to be at your most productive.
  • Communicate and find support: A chronic condition can be taxing on a person mentally and emotionally. Some days, challenges and difficulties can be downright overwhelming. It’s okay to have down moments and not always be ‘wearing a happy face’. Those closest to you will be able to understand why if you don’t shut them out. Symptoms of fibromyalgia may be more debilitating for you than may be physically apparent to others around you. Talk to your loved ones and help them to understand how your condition affects you on a daily basis. You can also seek out support groups that help individuals to cope with chronic pain and fatigue. A group that provides adequate emotional support can help to make you feel less isolated and on your own.
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