Chronic stress may cause pain if you suffer from fibromyalgia. Some studies show a connection between fibromyalgia flare-ups and changes in various hormones and neurotransmitters caused by chronic stress.
Luckily there are simple, proven methods to manage your stress. Some of these include:
- Optimal Sleep
Here's something you can try sitting at your desk at work or inside your car. Simply breathe deeply and exhale slowly. For better health, stay focused on things you like or that make you feel at ease. That way when chronic stress rears its ugly head, you'll be ready to do one or two things that help ease your stress.
One complication of fibromyalgia is known as “fibro fog.” Patients use this term when describing the thinking and memory problems that sometimes accompany the disorder. Symptoms of fibro fog include:
- difficulty holding a conversation,
- finding the right words,
- feeling alert, or
Moreover, someone suffering from fibro fog may find everyday tasks challenging. Things like finding your keys, paying attention to directions, holding onto new information, or keeping plans can become burdensome challenges.
If your memory is suffering from fibro fog, one of the techniques to manage your condition is through note taking. Make to-do lists, maybe even “to-say” lists to help you communicate more clearly with friends and family. Maintain lists of your friends' names, shopping lists, and contact information so you have them at a moment's notice. Keep track of your medications as well; it's easy to skip a drug dose or accidentally overdose if you can't remember when you last took your medication.
If you have fibromyalgia, your health can depend on exercise. Exercise has been shown to improve certain symptoms of the condition, including:
- cardiovascular fitness, and
- physical function.
The exercise should be maintained regularly at a low level of intensity. Walking and warm-water routines are among the best treatments, as they can give your body a significant boost without overdoing it.
Another important benefit of exercise is that it helps you sleep better. And that's great, because good sleep is also a helpful treatment for this condition.
Soaking in a warm bath or hot tub can relax tense muscles, reduce pain, and help you move more easily. If it's difficult for you to get in and out of the tub, try a sauna or put a stool in the shower so you can sit and let the water do its work. Moist heat may increase endorphins, which block pain signals, and help you sleep more soundly.
Stress has both a physical and psychological component. And guess what? Caffeine intensifies both. Your heart pounds faster with caffeine, your central nervous system becomes stimulated, and you become more anxious, nervous, and sleepless as you consume caffeine. So much for the physical. The mental symptoms of stress include anxiety, insomnia, and nervousness.
Life can become enormously stressful and complicated for people with fibromyalgia. That's why taking time for yourself each and every day is a legitimate and necessary part of treatment for your pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. Try relaxing with a hobby, or put on favorite music. You may simply need rest. Whatever it is that puts you in a better mood, make sure you do it each day. Saving some time for this sort of rest and fun will help you in many ways. You may:
- find your life more completely balanced,
- discover that you have less stress, and
- have more energy for the challenges of your everyday life.
Fibromyalgia doesn't take a break, and neither do you. Unfortunately, the pain and other symptoms of this condition don't disappear just because the work day has begun. But you can find treatments to ease the most frustrating symptoms as you power through your workday.
Start by designing a flexible work plan that you and your boss agree on. That could mean working from home part of the time, or setting your office hours differently—either earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
If you work in an office, try arranging things to put less stress on your body. You can start by arranging the items on and around your desk for easy use. Some products may be of benefit, such as headphones for a telephone, a tray for your keyboard, or one of many other products that can help you experience less stress. Your ongoing health may depend on it.
Many people who suffer from an “invisible illness” like fibromyalgia find it challenging to talk about their condition with others—especially romantic partners. They may fear their loved ones will dismiss their health needs, or tell them “it's all in your head.” Still, if you care about someone and want to have a relationship with them based on a foundation of honesty, you will need to face those fears and find a way to bring the subject up. And, they ultimately can then give you support you need.
Try starting by describing one of your health effects. If you get tired in the evenings, you might say, “I wish I could go out on Saturday, but I have a health condition that can wear me out sometimes. I may need to cancel plans if I'm feeling too exhausted.” A statement like this can lead to further questions and give you an opportunity to explain what your partner needs to know.
Because health problems related to fibromyalgia are invisible, people with this condition may feel added pressure to carry on like nothing is wrong. But if your body is aching and stiff, you owe it to yourself to prioritize and pace yourself.
Think about what you sign up for. Evaluate those tasks. Will they keep you away from the rest, relaxation, and exercise that helps ease your symptoms? Are they just too much to fit into your busy day? Don't be afraid to say no when you feel overwhelmed.
One of the most frustrating complaints people with fibromyalgia have is poor sleep. The symptoms of the condition can make sleeping more difficult, and lack of quality sleep intensifies the symptoms, leading to a potentially vicious cycle of sleeplessness and pain. Sometimes the solution will become clear after you take stock of your own sleep habits. Sometimes a sleep study test can be helpful. Ask yourself if the following common problems could be affecting your sleep:
- Disturbing noises (that includes loud snoring from others)
- Going to bed with worries on your mind
- Consuming caffeine in the afternoons or evenings
- Spending little or no time winding down before bed
- Sleeping in a space that is too bright, too hot, or too cold
- Failing to stick to a sleep schedule
There are solutions to each of these problems. For instance, if you find yourself stressed out and worried before bed, try setting aside some time each night to contemplate your worries. Sit down, think over the problems that may run through your mind as you fall asleep, write them down, and also write down solutions to those problems. Then, when those thoughts return to you as you try to fall asleep, tell yourself, “it's already dealt with. I don't need to worry. I have a plan for that.”
To take charge of fibromyalgia, everyone with fibromyalgia should try keeping a daily journal of symptoms and mood changes, along with the events and activities that accompany them. Keep a list of your medications, and when you miss a drug dose, keep track of that too. Over time, you will develop a clearer picture of what is likely triggering your fibromyalgia symptoms, which can make it easier for your doctor to treat your pain and fatigue.
Want to know what treatments have worked for others battling fibromyalgia pain and fatigue? Try joining a support group. A support group may be in-person or online, but in either case you will find a safe space to discuss frustrations, concerns, and your overall health with people dealing with the same medical problems. Find out what medicines have been effective for people like you. Learn how other patients treat their symptoms, and find out what works and what doesn't.
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- National Fibromyalgia Association: "Don't Distress--De-Stress!"
- McIlwain, H. and Bruce, D. The Fibromyalgia Handbook, 3rd Edition, Holt, 2003, pp 154.
- National Institute of Arthritis and Muscoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Fibromyalgia."
- University of Maryland Medical Center: "Fibromyalgia."
- WebMD Medical Reference: "Tips for Coping With Fibromyalgia."
- McIlwain, H. and Bruce, D. The Fibromyalgia Handbook, 3rd Edition, Holt, 2003, pp
- Duke Health: "Caffeine's Effects are Long-Lasting and Compound Stress."
- National Fibromyalgia Association: "FM On the Job -- 8 Tips to Help You Keep Working."
- CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help: "Seven Tips for Improving Communication."
- Mayo Clinic: "Support Groups: Find Information, Encouragement, and Camaraderie."
- PennState: "Psychological stress and fibromyalgia: a review of the evidence suggesting a neuroendocrine link."
- University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences: "What Is Fibromyalgia?" American Physical Therapy Association: "Exercise Can Help Ease Fibromyalgia Symptoms, But No Clear Winner Between Aquatic and Land-Based programs."
- Healthy Women: "Talking About Fibromyalgia."
- CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help: "Solutions for Sleep."