Stress may trigger fibromyalgia symptoms. Minimizing stress can improve your quality of life. Some proven stress busters are yoga, exercise, sleep, and meditation. Breathing deeply and exhaling slowly can also help. Or keep in mind activities that you enjoy or that make you feel better. When stress strikes, do one or two of them.
Jot It Down
If "fibro fog" is hurting your focus or memory, keep a pen and paper handy. Make to-do and even "to say" lists -- to help you remember topics you want to talk to your spouse or family about. Keep shopping lists, friends' names, and important phone numbers and addresses in a notebook that you carry with you.
Regular, low-intensity exercise, such as walking or warm-water exercise, is one of the best treatments for fibromyalgia. It helps decrease pain and stiffness, reduce stress, and may increase your sense of control over your fibromyalgia. You may also sleep better. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about a good exercise program for you.
Do Some Serious Soaking
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.
Reach for Decaf
Caffeine may compound stress, both physically and psychologically. It stimulates the heart and central nervous system, and can increase nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia. So decaffeinate to de-stress. For better sleep at night avoid caffeine from the late afternoon on. Watch out for caffeine in chocolate, coffee, and some soft drinks and teas.
Take Some 'Me Time' Every Day
Fibromyalgia can pose unique health challenges and make life complicated. So make time for yourself every day as a part of your treatment. Lose yourself in a hobby, put on some music, rest -- whatever makes you feel good. It may bring more balance to your life, help you fight stress, and boost your energy for the things you need to do.
Make Work Life Better
Is work leaving you exhausted and in pain? Design a flexible plan that works for you and your boss. Ask about working from home part-time, or setting your hours for earlier or later in the day so you can be more productive. At the office, rearrange your workspace for comfort and easy accessibility. A telephone headset, keyboard tray, or other products may help put less stress on your body.
Talk About It
Fibromyalgia puts stress on you and those around you. Communication is critical. Don't try to always put on a happy face. Your loved ones need to know what makes your symptoms worse. Plan talks for your best time of day. Try focusing on one issue and look for solutions. And don't be afraid to ask for help -- from friends, others with fibromyalgia, or a counselor.
Just Say No
Fibromyalgia is sometimes called an "invisible illness" -- you can look fine but feel bad. People may forget that you need to prioritize and pace yourself. When weighing activities, favors, or invitations consider if they will keep you from the rest, exercise, or relaxation you need to feel well. It's OK to simply say "no." And stick to it.
Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Sanctuary
If you're not getting enough rest, set the mood in your bedroom for sleep. Reserve your bed for sleeping, and keep the room dark, quiet, cool, and distraction-free. Keep regular sleep hours and ban your computer and late-night TV watching. Instead, wind down with relaxing music or a warm bath.
Keep a Daily Journal
Keeping track of events, activities, symptoms, and mood changes can help you take charge of your fibromyalgia. It may make you aware of when symptoms start and, over time, what may be triggering them. Then you can work to eliminate triggers or learn coping strategies to lessen their impact.
Join a Support Group
Support groups can play an important part in the lives of people with a chronic illness. Whether in person or online, they offer a safe place to talk with others who may share your frustrations and concerns. Support groups provide emotional support, information, and tips for coping. Contact the Arthritis Foundation to find one in your area.
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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 72. 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."
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