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Fibromyalgia Support Network

Stressed Out about fibromyalgia

Coping with the Impacts of Fibromyalgia

Your quality of life is affected when you live with pain, fatigue and other symptoms on a daily basis. Complicating things are the misunderstandings many people have about fibromyalgia. Because your symptoms are hard to see, it’s easy for those around you to dismiss your pain as imaginary.

Know that your condition is real. Be persistent in finding a treatment that works for you. You may need to try more than one therapy, or use a few techniques in combination, before you start to feel better.

Lean on people who understand what you’re going through, like:

  • your healthcare provider
  • close friends
  • a therapist

Be gentle on yourself. Try not to overdo it. Most importantly, have faith that you can learn to cope with and manage your condition.

Unpredictability – People with fibromyalgia often have trouble predicting how they will feel day to day, or hour to hour. This often leads to cancelling or changing plans, sometimes at the last minute.

Pacing is a way to escape the cycle of push and crash, bringing predictability. Pacing includes taking regular rests and having a consistent activity level from day to day. Also, maintaining a stable environment reduces stress, which is a major trigger of greater symptoms. So, a sensible response to unpredictability is a combination of flexibility and lifestyle adaptations that promote a consistent activity level, good sleep and control of stress.

Intense Emotions – Feelings like worry, frustration, grief and depression are common with fibromyalgia and understandably responses to the disruptions brought on by Fibro. Also, emotions tend to be intense and hard to control.

Reactions to illness can be addressed with self-management strategies, but counselling, medications or both may be appropriate also. Prolonged stress can alter the biochemistry in the body, creating biochemical depression. Self-management strategies may also be useful for this type of depression, but treatment normally includes medication as well.

Sensitivity to Stress – Stress is a challenge for everyone, but especially for people with long-term illness and those around them. Illness adds new stress to those people with FM, creating an additional cause of stress, as the condition is very stress sensitive.

Pacing is an effective way to control stress. Techniques include keeping activity levels within a person’s limits, taking rests, using routine, planning activity based on priorities and timing activities for the best hours of the day.
Other stress reduction approaches include de-cluttering (eg, reorganizing the kitchen or discarding unused possessions), limiting exposure to media, limiting contact with some people, avoiding crowds, and making mental adjustments (such as letting go of unrealistic expectations).

Weather and Sensory Overload – These are two other factors that affect FM patients. Changes in weather or particular types of weather can affect patients’ symptom levels. The most common reaction of this sort is FM patients experiencing intense symptoms during high humidity. The best coping strategy is to recognize that you will suffer more and do less during these times.
Most people with FM are sensitive to noise, light and crowds, and to sensory input coming from more than one source at the same time. A helpful response is to limit sensory information to one type at a time, eg, talking without any background noise. It may also mean socializing with only one or a small number of people, rather than large groups, and visiting public places in off-peak hours.

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