It can be difficult for anyone to balance everything in life. But when you have fatigue and chronic pain from fibromyalgia, prioritizing your activities and taking care of yourself is even more challenging -- and more important.
“For many people with fibromyalgia, it can be difficult at first to find a balance that feels comfortable,” says Kim D. Jones, RNC, PhD, FNP, associate professor at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Nursing. “ Chronic pain and fibromyalgia fatigue may prevent you from doing some of the things you were used to, such as working, taking care of your family, and participating in hobbies and activities you enjoy.”
You can live a full life with fibromyalgia, however. The key is to listen to your body and be flexible with your plans. You may find that you need to schedule in a day of rest after certain activities. Or sometimes you’ll need to rearrange your day to put yourself first.
With fibromyalgia, slowing down and doing less can ultimately allow you to do more. Here are five strategies for living a balanced life.
Coping With Fibromyalgia: Put Yourself First
“People with fibromyalgia are often so used to doing things for others -- whether it’s for family, friends or work -- that we end up doing a disservice to ourselves by taking on too much,” says Lynne Matallana, president and founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. Matallana has lived with fibromyalgia for 10 years.
“I’ve found it’s really important to learn how to take care of yourself and focus on your own needs,” she says. Depending on how you feel, that might sometimes mean lying in bed all day reading a book or going to a movie with friends. “It’s important to understand that taking care of yourself will ultimately help you heal.”
Set Limits When You Have Fibro
It’s also important to know your limits and to let others know that you may not be able to do everything you used to. “You shouldn’t feel bad when you need to say ‘no’ to requests,” Matallana says. “Fibromyalgia is a legitimate chronic illness. You have the right to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.”
Try these tips for taking care of your own needs:
- Keep your options open. “When you get an invitation or request to do something, tell the person that you’re very interested, but you’d like to think about it and get back to them in 24 or 48 hours,” Jones says. “That way, if you decide you can’t do it, you won’t feel so put on the spot.”
- It’s OK to cancel. If you’ve scheduled something and you aren’t feeling well enough to do it, reschedule. “Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do something,” Matallana says. “Try to remember that there will be other times you can do it.”
- Keep a fibromyalgia journal. Recording your activities, meal times, sleeping schedule, and how you feel each day can help you identify what causes your symptoms to flare.
- Delegate. Negotiate with your spouse or family members to take over certain tasks, such as cooking or cleaning, when you can’t do them. Try to work with your family to come up with solutions together.
- Take a break. If you’ve been active on organizations or committees, consider taking a break for a period of time while you focus on taking care of yourself.
- Eat out or order in. Rather than having family or friends over for dinner or holidays, make reservations at a restaurant or order in.
- Plan activity during the hours you feel the best. For many people with fibromyalgia, this is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., but it may be different for you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “People will usually go out of their way to help if you ask for it,” Matallana says. “But they need to know what you’d like them to do.”