Chronic pain is a persistent pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks. It is common and can affect all ages and all parts of the body. The pain does not only impact the physical body but also has an emotional and psychological impact as well as affecting many areas on an individual's life.
We've produced these tips for coping with fibromyalgia and hope these ideas can support all those who are suffering from chronic pain and similar health conditions.
Take one day at a time
No two days will be the same. One day you might feel fine, while the next you feel like your energy levels have depleted, and the most that you can manage to do is distract yourself from the pain. If anxiety increases the possibility of a flare up, it can be helpful to observe your anxious thoughts. Say things to yourself like “this is my worry talking” and tell yourself “this is only a thought or a feeling, not a fact”. Mindfulness exercises can be particularly helpful in bringing your mind’s attention away from worries about the future and focusing on where you are in the present moment.
As you adjust to living with fibromyalgia, you become familiar with what causes the flare ups; how your body reacts; how it makes you feel and what you have the ability to do. By learning from experience, you can equip yourself with things you need to help you get through the bad days. What would you put in your fibromyalgia emergency kit? medication? epsom salt essential oils? audio sleep guides? Consider adding things that keep you distracted throughout the day e.g. music, books, journal, gaming, crafts.
Dealing with other stressors
Living with chronic pain like fibromyalgia might not be the only problem you’re dealing with; there might be other events in your life which present challenges. If your flare ups are caused by stress, then you might want to consider facing your issues sooner rather than later. This can help you to conserve your energy, create some peace in your life and protect your mental health.
Finding supportive people
Living with chronic pain can be a lonely experience which is why it’s important to surround yourself with people who love and support you. These are people who will be there with you through the pain and offer comfort in a way that helps you most. These are friends who can devise plans to include you in the friendship group or understand why you might not be able to come along on the night out. And family who don’t make unfair demands of you and believe you when you talk about your illness. If you don’t have these people in your life, consider joining an online forum to make new connections and form a support network.
Learning to cope
The emotional and psychological toll of living with chronic pain can be incredibly overwhelming. The onset of chronic pain and illness is unsettling as things that you used to be able to do are now much more challenging and it can feel like the life you know is slipping away from you. Coming to terms with how your life is changing can bring you to a place of acceptance. You don’t have to do this work alone and you can seek support from a counsellor who will work with you in processing this major life change.
You are the expert on you
Chronic illnesses and pain are still majorly under-diagnosed. Many people who suffer from fibromyalgia report not being believed by health professionals, family, friends, teachers and employers which can all be barriers to getting the help and support you need. As much as people will cast doubt on what you tell them, you must always remember that no-one will know you or your body like you do. You are the one living through the pain and others must come to an understanding of that.
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