Learning to Cope with Fibromyalgia
If you’ve been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (FM), a chronic pain disorder that causes intense soreness throughout the body you may wonder how you’ll go about living your everyday life.
However, there is hope as many individuals living with FM find ways to better cope with the symptoms of their illness. According to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association approximately 10 million Americans are currently living with FM and it’s a disorder that can occur in people of all ages, including children. Below you’ll find more information on strategies that can help you live a fulfilling life with FM.
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What is Fibromyalgia?
The National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association states that the literal translation of word “fibromyalgia” means “pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons.” Symptoms of the disorder can include fatigue, memory problems, and muscle stiffness. Additional symptoms include: headaches, pain in the pelvic area, overactive bladder, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), to name a few.
However, not only is FM a physical illness it also takes a toll on a patient’s mental health and can also impact their social life. Many people with FM experiences anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, there is no cure for FM, however, symptoms are treated through a combination of medication, cognitive behavioral therapies, and exercise.
As I mentioned, many people are finding ways to cope with their FM symptoms, here are a few ways that can help.
A great coping tool is to keep a daily journal where you can keep track of your symptoms that day, what events and activities you participated in, and what your mood was like for the day. This can help you become aware of any triggers, which you can then try to work to eliminate them or learn to cope with them better.
Stress is common trigger for FM symptoms. It’s important to find ways to minimize stress in your life, you can do this by taking a yoga class, creating a sleeping routine, or find something that works for you. Meditation is also a huge help.
Talking with others
Whether you join a coping group or your just talk with a family member or friend, it’s important to communicate with others about what you’re feeling (physically and mentally). Don’t ever try to put on a happy face just because, make sure you’re being honest with everyone around and of course don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Soak in a warm bath
If you have a bath or hot tub, make sure you use it to your advantage. Even just soaking in it for 15 minutes can help you to relax tense muscles and ease pain. If you have trouble getting in or out of a tub or simply don’t have a bath tub, set up a stool in your shower and sit under the shower head, this will also do wonders on your body.
It’s not a surprise that beverages such as coffee, tea, and pop can increase nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia, which are not a great combination of things especially if you’re trying to cope with FM. If you need your coffee fix, try your best to switch to decaffeinated.
Have a work/life balance
First off, it’s important to let your manager or supervisor know about your disorder. They don’t need to know every single thing about it, but it’s important to give them a little bit of information so a plan can be created that works for you and your management. Try to see if there are things that can happen to help you have a better work/life balance. For example, see if you can work from home some days, ask about flexible hours, or ask about how you can arrange your office environment so that it helps you cope.
Diet & Exercise Tips
Next, we’ll discuss some diet and exercise tips that will help you manage your symptoms.
You can make a huge impact to your everyday life just by changing up your diet. Though diet will not be a magic cure to your FM, it will help you maintain a better quality of life. It’s recommended that you see a nutritionist, so they can help you to create a balanced plan. However, some common tips include making sure your diet is full of colorful fruits and vegetables as they are rich in antioxidants. Also, try your best to limit your intake of processed food as it’s full of chemicals that are in no way helping your FM.
Not only will exercise have you looking great, but it can also positively impact your mental health. It’s easy for FM patients to get down on themselves but keeping up a regular low-impact exercise routine can give you that boost that you need. Before you get started, it’s important to talk with your doctor, avoid intense activities (so unfortunately scaling a rock wall is out), know your limits, and most importantly choose activities that your personally like doing.
If you’re looking to try to distract yourself from the pain, it is possible. Grab a book, put on a movie, take a bath, listen to music or a podcast, or relax outdoors in the cool breeze and listen to the birds.
Please note that it’s best to see a doctor if your health changes and that it’s a good idea to keep track of symptoms.