1. Treat the mind as well as the body.
I have a history of depression, anxiety and PTSD that dates back to early childhood. For a long time, I resisted the idea that I needed treatment for these things, believing that if I was stoic, and "toughed it out", that would be enough. I was wrong.
We know that fibromyalgia is NOT "all in your head" - it is not an imaginary illness. We know that it can be associated with mental conditions such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. We know that the physical symptoms of fibromyalgia tend to improve when you treat any co-existing mental condition. What we don't know is if there is any causal relationship among them. I don't think it matters. Fibromyalgia is a condition that forces you to deal with your crap, whatever that happens to be. When you learn to think well, you feel well, physically and mentally.
2. Keep warm.
For me, and most people I know who have fibromyalgia, keeping warm makes a huge difference in the physical symptoms of pain and fatigue. When I flare, I take several hot baths each day. I wear extra layers, including long underwear beneath my pants, for most of the year. I avoid dampness, cold and drafts at all times. Interestingly, these are considered to be "pathogens" that contribute to CFS and fibro in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
3. Learn how to pace yourself.
Fibromyalgia is, among other things, a condition of unstable energy. Some days you feel like you can do anything, other days you feel like you can do nothing. Pacing yourself means that you learn when you can afford to push yourself and when you need to back off. It can be tricky but over time you learn how to "read" your energy level. You get better at setting priorities so you can make the most of the energy you have. You end up having a higher quality of life when you let go of trying to do all those things that you or others think you should care about which are not truly aligned with your values.
4. Make sleep a priority.
Which came first - chicken or egg? Fibromyalgia or sleep disorder? Some specialists believe that fibromyalgia is mostly a manifestation or consequence of messed up sleep. This is another instance where I'm not sure the nature of the causal relationship matters so much. If you have fibro, then you have to make getting enough sleep, or rest, one of your top priorities.
5. Be kind to yourself.
People with fibromyalgia tend to be:
- highly sensitive
Fibromyalgia teaches you to get to know yourself and your values deeply, to care for yourself as much as you care for others and to ensure your actions/activities are aligned with what you truly value.