Life can throw us all for loops, and it certainly threw me for one when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 6 years ago. Learning how to actually LIVE with the symptoms instead of fighting them will improve your quality of life.
Set some S.M.A.R.T. goals
If you’re fed up with fibro, make a plan. Set some goals, then follow through on them. The best method of goal setting is what’s known as the ‘smart’ method. Goals should be Safe, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. There’s nothing wrong with setting small goals to start out with, but take the time to sit down and do a little planning. Put your goals down on paper, make use of your calendar, do a little journaling to track your progress, and establish some kind of reward to make it more likely that you’ll follow through on them.
Create and maintain a routine for the bad days
Fibromyalgia flare-ups can send us diving for our beds, couches, and cuddly blankets in an attempt to just get through it as painlessly and quickly as possible. But I’ve come to realize that lying around can also be part of the vicious cycle. Create a simple routine for the bad days that includes getting up, showering, putting on some comfy clothes instead of pyjamas, forcing yourself to eat something healthy, and getting in at least 20 minutes of exercise. Just moving around a little can help, and exercise has been proven to significantly decrease the frequency and intensity of fibro flare-ups. As much as you feel like curling into a ball and hiding in your bed, force yourself to do something physical even on the worst days. You’ll definitely dread it, but you’ll feel better later, knowing that you accomplished something.
Revisit your medications and treatment plan
For years, I was on meds to stave off the worst of my fibromyalgia pain. In the beginning, it enabled me to get back to swimming, riding my bike, and running, and I even started to do triathlons. But as the years passed, I came to the realization that they just weren’t working anymore, and hadn’t been in over a year. The risks were definitely outweighing the benefits, and the side effects were contributing to my misery. It’s always prudent to question the effectiveness of your meds if flare-ups begin to increase in frequency or symptoms begin to worsen.
Commit to changing your diet
Nobody really knows what causes fibromyalgia, but diet can definitely affect your symptoms. Do a little research on how to improve your diet, and commit to making those changes for life. Identify allergen foods. Understand how including more anti-inflammatory foods, and cutting out inflammatory foods from your diet will reduce your symptoms and contribute to your overall wellbeing. Make a point of doing a little menu planning in order to simplify your grocery shopping. Including more fresh foods and cutting out pre-packaged foods takes a little planning, and taking the time to set up menus and grocery lists will help you stay organized with even the worst brain fog.
Commit to changing your lifestyle
As ridiculous as it sounds when you’re in pain, being physically active can greatly diminish your symptoms, and the frequency and duration of your flare-ups. Find something that you enjoy, and JUST DO IT. Start with as little exercise as you can handle, and formulate a plan to increase the frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise that you participate in (FITT for short). You don’t have to go crazy -research is showing that walking can be just as beneficial as running, for example. Even if you can only manage to make it half a block in the beginning, start with what you can currently handle, and build from there. A great guideline is to increase just one of the FITTs by 10% each week. Be sure to check in with your doctor before you start a new exercise regime if required, especially if you’ve been sedentary, but get UP and get GOING. It may be the only thing that will break the pain/flare-up cycle. I never felt better than I did when I was training for my first half-iron triathlon, but you really don’t need to go that far. Water-based exercise is an excellent choice if you’re in a lot of pain, as water provides 10x the pressure that air does, helping with joint pain and inflammation, and the temperature of the cooler water can help too. Yoga is another great choice, as it also gives you a little time for personal meditation. Whatever you choose, find a few things that you enjoy and stick to it.
Give yourself a break
Even with a great diet, exercise, and medication you’re inevitably going to experience symptoms and flare-ups. Acknowledge the symptoms. Accept them for what they are, but allow yourself the down time you need to get through them. Fibromyalgia sucks. But it doesn’t have to define you.