I am just coming to the end of a seven-week pain management course which was arranged by my local National Health System hospital specifically for people suffering with fibromyalgia. The following have helped considerably with my FM symptoms and with combating stress—which has a major impact on my symptoms.
I have learned to pace my activities. This means that if I have a task I want to accomplish, I break it down into smaller parts and take a break from the activity, to ensure that I do not cross my pain threshold. You can even set a timer to ensure that you don't go over this level.
I started small. So, for example, if I wanted to mow the lawn, I would set my timer for five minutes. When the timer rang, I would stop and do something else or just sit down.
The difficulty was really getting my head around this. My head was telling me, "You should be able to do this in one go," but I persisted. The outcome of this was that it may take me an hour to mow a small patch of grass but I would not end up hurting or tired (especially the next day) and I was able to actually finish something. As time has gone on, I have been able to go for longer periods without a break--but I still time myself to stop before I start hurting.
I have tailored this to everything I do: washing the dishes, looking at my finances, writing a letter, etc.
This is really useful especially when stressed or trying to get to sleep.
I concentrate on each breath. I imagine my stomach as a balloon and try to inflate it with every breath in. Once I have got my breathing right, I then count with each breath in and out from one to ten and back down again. This really, really works and is wonderful when you are unable to shut your head off when trying to get to sleep at night.
This is also fantastic for centering yourself and being in the now. Life is very stressful and we rarely get the chance to live completely in the moment. By really paying attention to your breathing, you are completely living in that moment.
Walking—With a Difference
This is walking with a difference. This is not walking to get somewhere. This is walking for the sheer pleasure of walking—going nowhere. On a really bad day, I can still do this, even if it is for only 10 minutes. Even with FM, you can walk with pleasure!
Whilst you walk, open your senses to everything around you. Hear the birds singing, hear the children playing, really feel the breeze on your face and the tingle you get when it's cold. Walk with gentleness. Do not stomp or go aggressively (not that we are really capable of doing this anyway) but pay attention to the fact that you are walking on the earth that Mother Nature created.
This is especially beneficial when you are cold. Sometimes the cold really seeps into my bones and this will definitely bring on a flare-up. If I am this cold, I go and walk for 10 minutes. When I return, I am glowing and warm and sometimes too hot. But this is much better than letting that cold seep deep inside. I sleep much better after this too.
We all know that people with FM need to exercise, but when you have FM it is easier said than done. Simple stretching can really make a difference—especially when in the middle of a flare-up. It is important not to "bounce" any of these stretches though even if that was the way you have been shown—it definitely makes FM pain worse. Just a gentle stretch on each of the muscles really works. This only takes a couple of minutes but I have learned that if I do this when I get out of bed first thing, or even while in bed, I come around quicker in the morning and it won't take hours for my body to wake up. Watch any animal, when they get up after being asleep, they stretch their limbs!
Being Gentle On Yourself
Sometimes you just need to be a little bit gentler on yourself. And if you have spent the day lounging around in PJs, so what! Sometimes we are our harshest critics--so be gentle on yourself!
This article was originally published in FMOnline. This free online newsletter is only available to registered members. Click here to register!
View other articles in vol. 8, no. 12 of FMOnline:
In the Spotlight
Stop and Smell the Roses
Fibromyalgia and Meditation
The Stress-Relief Schedule
Stress Management Techniques
Calm Down--Listen Up
In the News
Watch Out for FDA Impersonators
Health Benefits on the Job
Author Seeks Interview Subjects
Vol. 18 of Fibromyalgia AWARE Available
Beat the Holiday Crowds--Support the NFA
Johns Hopkins and NFA Launch FM Educational Initiative
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