Fibromyalgia is probably one of the worst invisible illnesses ever. All of the symptoms I’ve experienced over the past few years of my life can be attributed to fibromyalgia, including sleep problems, widespread pain, TMJ, depression, pelvic pain and digestive problems. Since it’s not something doctors can cure and make go away, it’s really important to have strategies to cope with the fatigue, pain and memory issues that come with fibromyalgia.
Here are my 10 self-care tips for living with fibromyalgia:
1. Baths are the bomb! Sometimes I wish I had pushed harder to find a house with a spa bathtub like I wanted, but I do know that if I fill up the bathtub with some nice warm water and throw in some lavender essential oils, it helps ease the pain, at least for a little while. According to Mayo Clinic, “warm water helps reduce muscle tension, promote relaxation and lessen pain,” so why not give it a try?
2. Learn to say no. You will need to limit the stress in your life — you cannot conquer the world in a day. If you already feel overwhelmed and someone asks you to do more, don’t feel guilty about saying no to them. If you don’t take care of yourself, your symptoms will worsen and nobody benefits from that.
3. Say “om!” Meditation can be an effective way of centering the mind. It can also help with anxiety, depression and concentration, and some people say it helps get their mind off the pain. Fibromyalgia can include all of these symptoms, so find a good, relaxing CD and let your mind go.
4. Go to bed. Good, quality sleep is so important with fibromyalgia. In my experience, the brain fog and pain can get worse when I am tired. I recommend trying not to nap during the day so you can work towards getting a good night’s sleep. Try to stick to a sleep regimen. If you take medication to help you sleep, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take it at least half an hour before you need to get to bed and do it.
5. Medication management is a must. If your doctor puts you on a medication to help you with your symptoms, it’s important to stay on top of the refills and to take them consistently. Get a pill minder with a day and a night section each day and prepare for the week ahead. Then all you have to do is put the pills in a place you will see them every day and take the medication you’ve already set out. Having a weekly pill minder also helps you notice when you are about to run out of medications, so you can take care of refills promptly.
6. Keep on moving. Your muscles might get even more sore and stiff if you are sedentary. Make sure you get enough exercise. Get a step counter and try to walk a certain number of steps per day — but work your way there slowly if you aren’t used to getting much exercise.
7. Eat healthy foods. Yes, the candy bars and ice cream are tempting, and sometimes vegetables aren’t the most exciting things to eat, but there are so many good recipes out there that are healthy, low-fat and delicious. Keeping your nutrition balanced may help you gain more energy.
8. A good doctor is a must. If your doctor doesn’t want to take the time to listen to you, check on your symptoms and help you be your best self, it’s time to find another. You’d be surprised how many people around you have fibromyalgia or know something with it. They can often make some really good recommendations for doctors. I found mine through colleagues who also have fibromyalgia and I know he will check my tender points, ask about my pain and make sure he’s providing the best care possible. I’ve had doctors who aren’t so compassionate. It’s worth it to switch if you don’t have a good doctor!
9. Ask for help. There will be days when it feels like you have weights dragging your body down and when it’s hard enough to get out of bed, much less clean the house, go to work and do all the other things you need to do. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you aren’t at your best. That’s why it’s important to…
10. Find a good support group. Your friends and family can often be there for you if you tell them what’s up. If you go to church, your church family is a good place to get support. If you have no other support, there are so many online support groups for fibromyalgia. Just search Facebook groups and you will see plenty of support groups to join.
Yes, fibromyalgia can be a pain to deal with (literally), but life may get easier by using some of these strategies to help keep symptoms either at bay or limited. Remember to take care of yourself. You may have limits due to the fibromyalgia, but learning how to cope with the disorder can enable you to still live your life.