6 Tactics for Reducing the Emotional Toll of Fibromyalgia
Anyone suffering from fibromyalgia or a similar chronic condition knows that symptoms such as pain and fatigue are only the beginning. Something that is often overlooked is the emotional toll these illnesses can take on those suffering from them. In addition to deteriorating the quality of our mental health, the stress from this emotional toll can even exacerbate our pain levels – making the condition worse.
Though there is no “one-size fits all” remedy for dealing with the extra stress and emotional toll of fibromyalgia – there are certain tips, tricks and guidelines that have helped others and may help you to gain the upper hand in managing the emotional toll. Here are 6 tips to help you better cope with the emotional toll of fibromyalgia:
1. Create a Coping Plan
Advance preparation can enhance our ability to cope and help reduce our levels of stress when a difficult day comes along. One of the most effective ways to prepare for bad days is to create a coping plan beforehand with ways to help you get through the day. Make a list of things to do to help cope with the pain, such as taking a warm bath, practicing deep breathing, taking medications, etc.
Having a list ready will remove the extra burden of having to think of ways to cope. Also make a list of things NOT to do. For example, if the pain were flaring up – skipping your normal household chores for the day would be wise. Having a list of things not to do will remind you that it’s okay to forgo certain responsibilities on a bad day.
In addition to a list of do’s and don’ts, look for other ways you can prep for bad days. Preparing easy-to-cook, freezable meals can free you up from having to prepare a meal when a bad day does come along. Other ways in which planning ahead can come in handy is by having comfort items handy at all times, either in the car or in an easy to grab pre packed bag. Items such as heating pads, pillows, or extra medication can be lifesavers during a flare up.
2. Be Open & Communicate
One of the best ways for those dealing with chronic pain to find support is by communicating very clearly with those within their support group. As much as I want to think – and sometimes act like – others can read my mind, experience has shown that just isn’t the case. I’ve found that simple, straightforward and polite communication is the best way for me to get the support I’m seeking from friends and loved ones.
For many, the mere thought of asking for help stresses us out. Remind yourself that it’s not a bad thing for an individual who is suffering to ask for help. Imagine someone else who was going through a similar situation reached out to you for help. Would you judge them for reaching out? Most likely, you would not. Rather, you would want to support them in whatever capacity you were able to.
Of course, there may be times when your support group is unable to provide the level of support you were hoping for. Do not let a fear of rejection deter you from seeking help. You will get zero support 100% of the times you don’t ask for it.
Your family and friends may not fully understand what fibromyalgia is or what it means for your health and well-being. Again – clear and simple communication about your symptoms and limitations can help set expectations and get everyone on the same page. Without playing the role of victim or being too overbearing, look for opportunities to educate your support group on your condition and let them know how much there support is both needed and appreciated by you.
4. Say “No”
We often accept or take on more than we can handle. This is true of everyone – not just fibromyalgia sufferers. For fibromyalgia sufferers, however, it can take an extreme toll. Learn to say no to both yourself and to others. Pay attention to your own limits and recognize when you need to pull back.
5. Focus on what you can control (let go of what you can’t)
This seems simple enough – yet most of us struggle with it. Lets face it – our lives can be a chaotic whirlwind stress and worry. Much of the time, however, the stress and worry we burden ourselves with is over things with which we have no control.
One technique that can help cut some of the extra stress and worry out of our lives is to take a few minutes each day (I prefer the morning – but nights are good too) and review those things that are stressing us out. On a piece of paper, assign each stressing point to one of three buckets:
1) Things I have complete control over
2) Things I have partial control over
3) Things I have no control over
If the item falls into the third bucket, recognize that there is nothing you can do to affect the outcome and that allowing yourself to stress or worry over it is only causing more harm. Focus your attention instead only on those items that fall within the first two buckets.
6. Talk To A Professional
Chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia can take a serious toll on your health – both physically and mentally. Just as you would seek out professional medical help if you broke your arm, you should seek out professional help if the emotional toll of your condition is leaving you feeling overwhelmingly depressed, detached or hopeless. The stigma of mental health services is slowly being erased – and most health plans now cover counseling services.
Working with a professional counselor or therapist can help you sort through your emotions in a constructive manner and teach you the necessary skills/coping mechanisms to deal with them. Besides improving your mental health, it can also improve other symptoms as you become better equipped to deal with stress – which is known to aggravate fibromyalgia pain.
However you deal with it, finding ways to cope with the emotional toll fibromyalgia takes on your life is vital. Doing so can have a direct impact on your more obvious symptoms – such as pain and fatigue – and provides you with the necessary foundation to wage an effective war on your other symptoms and improve your quality of life. What tactics have you employed to deal with the stress and worry of fibromyalgia? We’d love to hear from you. Share your tips with us on our Facebook Page!