Stress, or more broadly speaking, anxiety can be brought about in various ways. Common stress factors for most ‘normal’ people include work, weddings, deaths, family tensions, finances and deadlines. But how I react with Fibromyalgia may appear similar on the outside to people who don’t have my condition, internally it causes a lot of havoc. So this post is about the effects of stress on Fibromyalgia symptoms for me personally. You may have your own, of course!
Some People Excel Under Pressure…
I am not one of those people.
Worse than that, things which other people would find normal – like a change of plan, or a friend knocking at the door – can actually cause me to feel anxious. This is because I find social engagements hard, especially if suffering from particularly bad Fibro Fog, or high pain levels.
The Effect of Stress on Fibromyalgia
How It Is For Me
- Higher Fibromyalgia Pain – stress goes straight to my muscles and, more often than not, into my head.
- Increased Stress – higher pain makes me less able to do a particular task, or speak with a particular person. That makes me more anxious, which leads to more pain. (Do you see the cycle?)
- More Meds and Side-effects – if I have higher pain I have more medication. When it kicks in, pain subsides somewhat but is usually replaced with feeling really drained (fighting pain is tiring!). I can end up with a really dry mouth and have to consume more liquids. I can never find ‘balance’, there’s always something I’m fighting.
- Loss of Cognitive Function – even if I didn’t hurt so much under stress, I find that situations I can’t control, or unmovable deadlines, all cloud my judgement. That makes it harder to think which increases stress. (Another cycle here)
Stress and Other Health Conditions
For a time I was trialling Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, at my local Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre. I’ve been more aware that some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia overlap with those of other health conditions: MS and ME being two of them. If you suffer from multiple health conditions (as many of us Chronic Illness folk do), you may find this post from @gonzoid helpful on managing the pressure and strain with a condition like MS.
How To Manage Fibro Under Stress
There are no easy answers. And anytime I think I have a method, the next really stressful, high pressure, situation which arises challenges that approach. However there are a few things you can do with the help of others:
- Plan Ahead: my other half knows to let me know if a plan is likely to change. Even a half-hour warning can make a big difference to my thought processes. I can redress my expectations. I may not like the ‘new plan’ always but at least I see it coming.
- Keep Deadlines Flexible: This is not always achievable, but can be done more often that you’d think. Whoever else is involved in your deadlines, keep them clued in as to where you are at health-wise and have the strength of will to inform everyone if you need to move a deadline for your own sanity.
- Work Within Your Limits: As I had to do when I had a job, you need to work out what your capacity is each day, or even each hour and do your best to stick to that. That’s what your ‘Spoon Allowance’ is all about.
- Be a bit selfish: no matter what your life circumstances, I had to learn it’s okay to have time for me. Sometimes to play SWTOR or LOTRO, sometimes to write here, sometimes just to sit and read. And that’s okay. If you don’t put yourself first often, then you’ll not have any capacity to be there for others when they need you.
- Find Something You Love and Do It – I’ve met Spoonies who hand-craft crochet’d items, make Spoon Art, write books. It doesn’t matter what it is – have something in your life to focus on. It doesn’t lessen the pain, but it does help you to not focus on it 100% of the time.
How Does Stress Affect Your Fibromyalgia (or other health condition)?
What effects on your health do you find stress has? And more importantly, how do you combat it? Why not tweet me and let me know what issues you deal with. Stress and Fibromyalgia is a tough, complicated combination. We all just do our best.
May the Force Be With You. May It Make You Strong.