1- Stress reduction:
Easily said but not easily accomplished. Stress itself may be a trigger for symptoms to flare up or if already enduring a flare up of symptoms stress can aggravate them further. Therefore by reducing certain stress factors there can be a reduction in the associated emotional costs to coping such as anxiety, depression as well as an increase in mental and physical fatigue. Sleep also plays a vital roll in coping with fibromyalgia and stress reduction can assist with easing night time tossing and turning, worrying and induce more relaxation when needed.
2- Avoid MSG and Aspartame:
Avoid MSG in food and sugar substitutes like aspartame as both are called excitotoxins. They excite neurotransmitters if there is too much it leads to nerve toxicity. There have been studies that have shown eliminating both of these from the diet results in symptom improvement that is impressive.
3- Sleep habits:
Maintain good sleep habits and do not drink caffeine after seven pm. Maintain a solid routine in your sleep habits where you always go to bed and wake up at the same time. Often it is suggested to not have a TV in the bedroom as to only use the bedroom for sleeping so your mind is geared towards relaxation. Limit light within the bedroom with either using black out blinds on the windows or an eye mask to ensure the environment is as dark as possible. Try to eliminate background noise or if you wish pay relaxing music in the background.
4- Have a soak in a warm bath:
It is said having a warm bath, sauna or a warm shower will relax your tense muscles, helping you move more easily and then reduce pain. Studies have further shown the moist heat may raise endorphins and decrease levels of stress hormones, both of which are great things. Most people do find relaxing in a warm tub relaxing and that seems a good enough reason to encourage it.
5- Open communication:
With an invisible disability like fibromyalgia it is easy to put up a façade of well-being to get through the day or to make things easier on loved ones. This can be a useful coping mechanism to put some distance between yourself and the pain to function through the day, however, it can also be a barrier between yourself and others. Encouraging honest communication between you and your loved ones, friends and co-workers can prevent conflicts, open awareness of your condition and create productive discussions. Whereas if you maintain a stoic façade it is easy to build resentment for people who do not seem to understand your suffering and how much pain you have to endure. It can be difficult to broach the topic without feeling like a chronic complainer, at least internally, or feeling emotionally overwhelmed and sometimes it is best to start small with simple fibromalgia facts. Keep it simple and straight forward to gauge how people respond. Or it can be a good idea to get help from a support group or a counsellor on communication strategies to use with your family opposed to ones to use in the workforce.
6- Personal daily journal:
With a complex syndrome like fibromyalgia keeping a daily journal is extremely useful to track symptoms over time. It helps indicate the time frame and events surrounding when a new symptom occurred. It can help track unusual increases in severity of a particular symptom which may help pin point what is triggering that symptom. Such as, some people may have specific food triggers for irritable bowel symptoms. You can also monitor your pain and fatigue levels to watch for what triggers and increases in them as well or what activities are beneficial opposed to what activities are difficult. Over time patters emerge that you have not noticed or you look back and see that a particular flare up of a symptom you are having now occurred months ago and might be caused by a similar trigger. This can help you adjust your routine and lifestyle as you go along. You can keep track as make changes to your eating habits, what vitamins and supplements you use and what alternative therapies work for you.
7- No means no:
Learn to set limitations and say no and mean it. Too many demands will cause an increase in stress levels, for a system that is not designed to handle stress. Have a calendar of your day and activities and ensure you have the proper amount of time each day to exercise, eat well and rest without being overburdened. If adding another commitment would interfere with other priorities of greater importance, or make you fatigued and stressed after a long work day then it is likely not worth it. While it is great to want to help out it may have an adverse affect on your health making you feel fatigued, sore and likely quite a bit more stressed than you need to be. Your health should be your number one priority.
If possible eat small meals every two to three hours rather than large meals which makes it easier to digest, keeps your fibro-fog to a minimum and helps avoid some nausea.
9- Change positions often:
Especially if you work at a job where you are stationary. Get up and walk around, change positions and go for a walk on breaks. This will prevent the pain associated with being in one position for too long. This is especially true for office jobs, where you sit for long periods of time and might not realize how much pain is associated with just sitting. In jobs where you stand all day, switch it up with walking around to prevent stiffness in your knees and taking breaks to sit down. The key is changing positions.
10- Join a support group:
Join a Fibromyalgia chronic pain group near your location or online. They can be very educational, supportive environments where people feel safe to share their personal trials, vent without guilt and gain inspiration and encouragement.
11- Work Accommodation:
Sometimes to be capable of maintaining employment work accommodation is required in some fashion whether that is arranging a more flexible work schedule that allows you to come into work later and leave later or an arrangement that permits partial work from home hours. Some companies offer partial or full telecommuting positions which may be more beneficial as long as you are able to manage your energy levels. Other times it is better to reduce hours to part time to manage stress. Try to avoid jobs with shift work that requires rapid changes from morning, afternoon to evening shifts as this sort of change is difficult on a normal sleep cycle and quite a bit more stressful when your sleep cycle and fatigue levels are already difficult to manage.
While this is a dreaded notion when you are already tired and in pain, this is not heavy duty exercise we are talking about here. It is because of the pain and fatigue that people may be less inclined to be active which may lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Some exercise, such as walking, stretching and yoga can increase your mood, flexibility and have a bit of a painkiller effect. It will help keep the muscles from becoming weaker, keep the joints more stable and increase your overall sense of wellbeing. It is best to start of slow in ten minute instalments and work your way up to your comfort level. Never over do it as that will make you less inclined to continue. If there is a great deal of discomfort from doing an activity then you want to decease the time you are doing it for or consider a different less intense activity to begin with.
13- Eliminate caffeine:
We believe that caffeine is giving us energy to counteract all that fatigue but really it is one of those things that can cause a stress response. Too much caffeine can cause nervousness, stress response, insomnia, restlessness and anxiety. Try limiting the amount of caffeine on your diet, especially if you have a high intake. Try switching out one to one; for every caffeine drink the drink after will be something without it.
14- Your time your way:
We are filled with a great deal of things in our day that we have to do. All those things cause us pain and fatigue but they are necessary. Does not make it easier, but we get it done. It is just as important to find the time to do something just for you because you want to not because you have to. Hobbies you have a passion for are an excellent way to engage in an activity each day that is for you and you alone.
15- See a therapist:
Sometimes people resist seeing a therapist because while trying to get their diagnosis they ran into doctors you said they were simply ‘stressed’ or it was ‘all in their heads’ or even that they were simply ‘depressed’ leading to a concern if they now see a psychiatrist it will again all be lumped into a mental category freeing doctors to ignore them once more. However, people with chronic pain and illness often neglect their emotional wellbeing. Depression can occurs a co-morbid condition or it can occur when the pain levels are high simply as a symptom of being in pain. There can be additional problems with anxiety and guilt. Issues that arise with having an illness and the frustrations are not easy to discuss with ones spouse and family. Having someone who is able to assist in helping with positive coping mechanism and provide a good sounding board is a good idea.