Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Do You Cope With Chronic Fibromyalgia Pain?

Coping with chronic fibromyalgia pain is a difficult task to say the least.  Chronic relentless pain may result in a number of consequences including sleep impairment, increased fatigue, difficulty coping with everyday stressors, depression, an impaired immune system, irritability, difficulty concentrating, difficulty with decision making, reluctance to socialize, loss of personal relationships, inability to complete daily tasks, inability to participate in activities, and feelings of grief, loss, loneliness, sadness, anger, and frustration, just to name a few.  In addition, fibromyalgia is an illness that is poorly understood by family, friends and healthcare professionals.  Chronic fibromyalgia pain significantly impairs quality of life and can result in a downward spiral in physical and emotional health.

So how do you possibly cope with this life challenge?  This is actually a very complex question that requires a complex answer, but for now I'm going to concentrate on a few key components.  The first step in coping with your pain is to identify those people that make up your support system.  Make a list of every person no matter how big or small their supportive contribution may be.  Start a list that defines your support structure including your family members, your medical team, friends, acquaintenances, your hardware guy, your housekeeper, a support group, your clergy -- anyone that is there for you.  It may even be a total stranger.  This takes a great deal of honesty on your part and you will have to carefully think about the type of support you need.  You can always add to the list or subtract from the list.  You will either be surprised at how large your support base is or you will be able to identify holes in your support system and then you will know where to increase your support.  This list will probably change as your relationships change.  There are times when someone comes into our life and they make one beneficial contribution to your wellbeing.  That is a gift when someone touches your life.  It may be the only reason that person entered your life; they may not have been in your life for a long term relationship.  That includes your doctors too.  You will most likely add new friends, and other people may drift apart from you.  That's just the natural cycle of relationships.  As you build your support foundation you will feel more in control, which will ease some of the tension in your body and can help take a little edge off your pain.

The next thing you can do to cope with fibromyalgia pain is to be your own best friend.  Build rest, exercise and activity into your day.  Again, be honest with yourself.  Don't overbook your "dance card" unless it absolutely cannot be avoided.  Working to balance rest and activity is a critical component to help your body regain homeostasis or life balance.  Your body will thank you!  This is one of the most difficult tasks for a person with fibromyalgia, because we remember when we were running around like our hair was on fire and we long for those days!  That phase of your life is probably over and now you are in another phase of your life.  Remember to use positive self-talk and be kind and gentle with yourself.   Get involved in one or two activities that give you social time that doesn't zapp your energy.  I joined a gentle yoga group, which gives me some social time, a little exercise and some meditation too.  Good stuff!  Another activity I do is light gardening -- dirt therapy!

Another important component is for you to be in charge of your life.  Being in charge of your own life is liberating and keeps your spirits up.  When you are in charge of you it is empowering and that will reduce feelings of anger, frustration and depression. This will most likely improve your fatigue a bit too and that can't hurt!

Learn more about the medications that are used to treat fibromyalgia symptoms and be your own advocate in building a solid medical team.  Being completely pain free isn't realistic, but you should be able to partner with your doctors to reduce the pain you experience every day and that will help you cope.  The other key element is getting some sleep.  Focus on identifying sleep strategies that work for you including medications such as a muscle relaxer, medication for restless leg syndrome, a hypnotic sleep medication, pain medication and others.  Even if the sleep you get isn't completely refreshing sleep, you still need to maximize and improve the quality of your sleep.  It works wonders!

Another strategy that will help you cope with fibromyalgia pain is to spend time with domesticated animals.  Interacting with animals is soothing and lifts peoples' spirits.  If you don't have your own pet, borrow a friend's pet or do a little house sitting.  Interacting with animals is therapeutic; your blood pressure will be lower, your tension will decline, and your energy will be better.  This is a picture of little cute Hootie keeping a low profile in the back courtyard.  He is very fuzzy and tolerates me squeezing him.  He's one of my gardening buddies too.

Another activity you can do to cope and help reduce your pain and make your pain a little less significant in your life is to begin by sitting in a comfortable chair.  Visualize your pain first in bright colors and think about how that pain feels, then visualize the pain in black and white . . . how does your pain feel now?  Next make that black and white visualized pain very large until it fills the room and note how that makes you feel.  Next visualize the pain as very small and inconsequential.  Lastly, put that small, black and white visual of your pain in a corner of the room where it is out of the way and not easily noticed.  Think about how that makes you feel.  You may be surprised to realize that your pain is a little less edgy and doesn't hold the same significance it did prior to this simple exercise.

Well, that's all I have for now.  I hope my thoughts on coping with fibromyalgia pain have been helpful.  My best to everyone!  May you be well and enjoy every day, because every day is a gift.

Warmest wishes,  Valda

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