If you’ve recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you’re learning that it’s a chronic pain disorder, with body-wide soreness and tenderness in muscles its major symptom.
But there are other characteristics too. The Mayo Clinic describes it this way:
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
You may find that certain things you do, eat, or even think can trigger your symptoms. While your pain symptoms may simply just happen, more likely you feel worse after a lack of sleep, eating certain foots, a lack of exercise, and increased stress.
Stress May Be One of Your Worst Pain Triggers
Not only does your pain get worse with stress. Being upset makes sleeping more difficult, eating right harder to do, and keeping your spirits up almost impossible. These things are hard enough to do anyway, let alone under stress. So, managing your stress is especially important when you’re dealing with fibromyalgia.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to managing stress. There are several approaches open to you. Look at stress management actions you can do by yourself, as well as those involving the help of others to deal better with stress.
Look for Relaxing Lifestyle Choices
As far as possible, include more downtime and calming activities. Turn off the computer and make more time for things like:
- Taking a warm bath: Allow yourself to add soothing agents such as Epsom salts or lavender oil, juniper oil or chamomile.
- Spending less time with aggravating people: Make more time for those you find comforting and easy to be around
- Going to a personal quiet space: A sanctuary that invites peace of mind and helps you let go of tension can be an important part of learning to relax. This can be a room in your home, a garden, a place in nature, a park, or a church, or a place with your favorite animals or a pet.
Learn Some Relaxation Techniques
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there are these main types of relaxation techniques:
Autogenic training: a learned technique to help you use visual imagery and body awareness to move yourself into a deep state of relaxation
Deep breathing: this is a strategy for relieving stress by taking in more air, and lowering activity in order to focus just on calmer, deeper breathing. For example, standing or sitting quietly, breathe in through your nose. Breathe in fully so your ribcage area expands gently. Hold your breath for 3 seconds, then breathe out through the mouth. When exhaling, make your time to exhale longer than your time to inhale; this will help you relax further, and release tension from your muscles. Repeat a few times as you can without discomfort.
Progressive muscle relaxation: You focus on particular muscle groups, tensing and then relaxing them, slowly. This approach involves your whole body, working in sequence, starting at the toes and ending with the head.
Meditation: Two main forms of meditation are Transcendental (using a mantra or phrase), and mindfulness (focusing on thoughts and your own sensations). Some exercise programs, such as yoga, also have a meditation component
You can safely learn relaxation techniques from well-recommended books and audio programs. You can also find classes in many areas , and learn a technique with an experienced coach.
More Natural Approaches to Fibromyalgia and Stress Management
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This approach focuses on challenging a person’s overly negative or self-defeating thinking and behavior patterns. It helps replace them with new thoughts and ideas for coping better and feeling less anxious. There are self-guided and therapist-lead ways to explore this therapy.
Body Treatments, Including Massage, Acupuncture and Exercise:
The topic of acupuncture and stress relief deserves a good look. Here are some articles to help you explore the proven benefits of this ancient Chinese treatment, to stimulate healing, reduce pain, lower stress hormones, and improve health:
- Acupuncture and Stress Relief Part 1: How Your Body Responds to Stress
- Acupuncture and Stress Relief Part 2: How acupuncture eases pain, improves mood, sleep, and body chemistry
Exercise can play a major role in reducing the negative impact of stress on your body and pain levels. To find out more, look at:
- Treating Fibromyalgia Naturally: How Exercise Matters
- Fibromyalgia and Exercise: What Kind, How Much, How Often?
Dealing well with stress is a personal matter, but very important to improving your health. You may need to explore and find your own best combination of approaches for different situations or times of year. When it comes to getting the upper hand on stress, you may need to take some time to find your own best answers. A doctor experienced in treating fibromyalgia can guide you to resources that have helped others recover, and live well despite the daunting stress of coping with fibromyalgia.
About Dr. Keller
Dr. Betty Keller practices integrative therapy at the Optimal Wellness Center in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. She is a licensed acupuncturist and medical doctor specializing in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, weight loss and disease prevention, serving Franklin Lakes, Wyckoff, NJ, and nearby areas.