I’ve lived with fibromyalgia for more than 15 years. During this time, I have been asked by many individuals how I’ve managed to live, what appears to be, a normal life.
First of all, most individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses don’t live normal lives. But we do all have one thing in common: We can be pretty good at faking it. However, when pretending good health becomes exhausting, lifestyle changes need to be made. The following changes help me enjoy a life with less pain and less faking.
Make family your first priority
While this suggestion appears logical, it requires analyzing many actions and choices. If your family ends up being neglected because previous actions left you incapacitated, then something needs to change. By consciously putting your family first, the rest of these suggestions will make more sense and become easier.
Quit a committee and stop being the "go-to" babysitter. Stop volunteering for everything and stop seeing yourself as the only one who can successfully complete all those important projects. Besides, those tasks probably aren’t as essential as they first appeared to be. Saying "no" may be difficult at first, and some people will be offended that you’ve stopped volunteering. But your true friends will continue their support and love even when you say "no."
Get ready for the day
I know those pajamas are comfy. But, if you are like me, you associate pajamas with being sick in bed. Take a shower and get dressed. Maybe even fix your hair. Women, put on some lip gloss. Tell yourself you won’t let fibromyalgia rob you of your dignity. Dress in a manner in which you would be comfortable going out in public. Even if you stay at home all day, without seeing anyone other than your family, you can improve your mental well-being by showing your chronic illness you aren’t sick enough to stay in pajamas.
I used to laugh every time a doctor suggested exercise. Crawling up the stairs was painful, and that M.D. wanted me to go to the gym? Try low-impact, gentle exercises like walking or yoga. Don’t think a particular exercise will help? Try it five times before giving up. What’s the worst that could happen, pain? Well you’ve dealt with that before. If a particular exercise still doesn’t help, try something else.
Get needed sleep
I know, you’ve heard this before. But sleep is absolutely vital to your health. If your body is hurting because life is so busy you can’t get enough sleep, then something in your life — other than sleep — needs to give. Conversely, make sure you aren’t staying in bed longer than is needed. Too much sleep can make you more lethargic and achy. Figure out the best amount of sleep for your body.
There’s a lot of hype, and truth, about the benefits of different vitamins and nutrients. But sometimes our bodies want a break from all the food. Try fasting for 24 hours, one day a month. If that’s already something you’re doing, then ramp it up to one day every other week or so. Fasting isn’t new or strange. In fact, many major world religions have been doing it for hundreds of years to the benefit of their followers. Fasting has been proven to help people feel better and be happier. I have personally found that when I fast my body naturally craves healthier foods, facilitating other health-related goals.
Cut the sugar
You knew this would be on the list, right? We fibromyalgia sufferers are constantly tired. Our fatigue makes us crave the quick pick-me-up sugar provides. This means we love our candy, baked goods and sodas. But, surprise, all that processed sugar ends up hurting us more. While our sugar-highs are awesome, the crash in our energy supply is colossal. Honestly, my sugar intake is something I continually struggle with. Dang it, I love chocolate. But when I go a few days, or even a few weeks, without junk food I feel amazing.
Stop being a perfectionist
Be happy with wiping down the bathroom counter instead of cleaning the entire room. Your new mantra needs to be, “at least it is better than it was before.” Tell yourself that although your yard may be full of weeds, at least the dishes got loaded into the dishwasher. If your cluttered house still causes you embarrassment when guests arrive, have a few places you can conveniently stash things until they leave. Remember that just because your body is behaving imperfectly doesn’t mean the rest of your life has to make up for it.
Be honest with others
Tell people if you’re having a hard day. I know, it’s hard to do. We, fibros, love looking and acting like we’ve got it all together. But honesty really is necessary. Explain to those closest why you need to take it easy. Tell your sister-in-law you can’t babysit her children anymore because holding her newborn is painful. Explain to your kids you need them to bring the groceries into the house because lifting the bags is too difficult. Let your spouse understand that if you want to concentrate on the speaker instead of the pain, sitting on the soft pew at church is imperative. Help others help you by being open and honest.