We all know the negative effects of stress and how quickly this can bring on pain and symptoms. Coping well with fibromyalgia means consistently learning and applying techniques that will lessen and mitigate overall symptoms..
Not that dealing with stress effectively will cure all that ails us; yet, it is an essential step if we want to experience greater levels of well-being and healing.
How do you deal with stress? And could you do better in this area? I think we all can. Let’s focus on a few of the essential, non-invasive stress remedies for coping with fibromyalgia.
Did you know that people with a chronic illness such as fibromyalgia tend to be shallow breathers? An important part of coping with fibromyalgia is deep breathing. It has been said that a lack of adequate oxygen intake through
stress or unintentional breath holding can exacerbate pain syndromes in the
in the upper body.
Take some time every day to go to a place that is quiet and practice deep breathing techniques; if you have previously learned your own, use them. I prefer to do any kind of deep breathing lying down on back with knees bent.
I use a simple technique that involves breathing in and then holding for a count of about 5-7, breathing out and exaggerating on the OUT breath. Alternate nostril breathing is great for stress as well.
Close mouth and hold one nostril closed, then breath in and out 1-2 times through open nostril. Close other nostril and do the same. This breathing technique is absolutely the best for adrenal stress.
Start out with just a few cycles of in and out and eventually work up to 8-10 cycles. Stop if you start to feel faint or light headed. This stress reliever can be conveniently practiced as part of our next and most important stress reliever - meditation.
Meditation will not only calm your mind and body, it will have a
significant effect on coping with fibromyalgia pain if done consistently with a positive
attitude towards the outcome. Follow
these directions or take a class locally.
Try not to force anything, meditation is not about being perfect. To start with, plan on about 20 minutes in a quiet, isolated room.
Most of all, do not try to practice meditation while already in a stressful state. This needs to be practiced while relaxed. Meditation is not a fix, this is a "practice"
Do this twice a day, morning and evening. After a few sessions, you'll find that 20 minutes is more than enough time and you can cut the time to 10-minutes when time is a factor OR lengthen the time as your mindbody becomes more conditioned to the relaxation response.
You must be undisturbed by the kids, spouse, or even a loud TV the family is watching. There are different forms of meditation. We find observational type of meditation is more calming to the body than trying to just sit and listen to your thoughts. Studies have also confirmed this. We must be intentional.
Hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door if necessary. You can use a soothing piece of music to block out sounds of the family if you want, but, no lyrics, please. You'll also need an alarm clock or other means of knowing when the time is over.
Start with the deep breathing exercise described in the previous paragraph. The deep breathing will release endorphins and possibly serotonin - the pain relieving and calming "chemical messengers", respectively, that I talk about in Mindbody Science.
Now, think of a calm, beautiful place you'd like to be. Really focus on it in your mind. If you have trouble at this point, don't
panic. This is a process you will learn,
and it will become easier if you are consistent with it. Now, you must relax,
and you are going to do that by imagining you are in that peaceful place.
Then, focus on your toes; start with the big toe on each foot. will it to relax. When it does, move to the next toe. Get the idea? Don't hurry. Relax the foot, the ankle, the calf and so on until you've moved all the way to your head. Slow down here. Relax the jaw, the eyelids, the ears, and finally the scalp.
Now, if you read Mindbody Science, particularly where I
related the researcher's findings regarding the baby monkeys, you know that
trauma can be and often is stored in our bodies, not just in our minds. It causes real physical change (actually deformation) in our cells; but,
this change can be undone.
That's what we're about to do, and it is one of the most important tools you'll have for coping with fibromyalgia. But, before we do, I want you to read the short piece about this research by clicking on monkey research now. This will take you to the Mindbody Science page. Scroll down to the headline
Intervention The Effect
of Negative "Memories" Can Be Reversed
Let's discuss how you can
intentionally enter into the conversation taking place with the chemical
messengers at the cellular level in your body. Remember that coping with stress is coping with fibromyalgia. There are many negative emotions and traumas stored in your mindbody;
some from the day to day activities of your current life and some from past
For the quickest, but temporary, relief we're going to focus on your current life issues first. Strive to do this in a non-judgmental way. This is very important. When you reach your meditative state, think of the negative emotions you experienced recently.
Try to be an observer in the balcony watching the negative event taking place on a stage. Know that when you participated in that event you encouraged the receptors on your cells to shrivel up and become deformed.
And, it caused a chemical messenger to trigger the release of cortisol from your adrenals. Cortisol floods your body and causes inflammation all over. Now, your immune system sends out its army of fighters to attack the inflammation; but, there's so much inflammation it depletes the immune system's resources. Now you are open to bad things happening such as viruses, bacteria, etc..
And, there are always tiny cancers that the immune system normally deals with successfully, but in its weakened state maybe not this time! Are you getting the picture?
Was this recent negative event (anger, hurt feelings, feeling pressure because Christmas is approaching and you haven't finished your gift shopping, sorrow, and one of the worst - self pity or the "Why me?" feeling that many of us have experienced) worth what I just described? That description was accurate; it is scientific fact!
These "soft" traumas happen to us often in our lives. We must learn to deal with them in a way that prevents the damage to our mindbody. The emotions generated during these negative events are literally stored in our organs, soft tissue, skin, etc. They may be small individually; collectively, they can be very destructive.
Now, we're going to take a big step in coping with fibromyalgia. After a few weeks, you will get tired of improving for a short while only to have the "stressors" come back. Then, it's time to go deeper. At this point, you should be getting better at avoiding or controlling situations that can hurt you in your everyday life. So, now move further back in the past. Spend some time with memories; maybe elementary school or later or some major event with your parents like a vacation.
Or, maybe like me, your parents had your home remodeled when you were young, and the associated toxins (paint odors, formaldehyde, etc.) were overpowering and gave you headaches. You are looking for traumas. Don't worry if you don't find any.
But, know that there is good scientific reason to believe that suppressed rage, anger, grief, fear, or shame can be at the root of our fibromyalgia. Stored throughout our mindbody, these old emotions cause our pain and other symptoms. It's not likely that you will be able on your own to actually confront these deep seated traumas without professional help; but there's no need anyway.
You're about to learn that just rummaging around with a positive attitude, and being willing to confront them takes the power away from the stress pain and puts you in charge.....yes, really! Continue the meditation, continue to recall past major emotional events, and remember to be nonjudgmental of yourself and others.
Remember that in the Bible, St. Paul said, "Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light, itself becomes light.” Please trust me on this. This process works. Combined with the rest of my protocol, you can dramatically reduce your fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms for long periods.
If, in coping with fibromyalgia, you are consistent in applying these principals of meditation and maintaining a positive attitude regarding your outcome, your mindbody will form new neural pathways and the whole process will become like riding a bike.
Because fibromyalgia can present so many challenges to various parts of the body and brain, it can be easy to reach for the most accessible drug, that being food. It might feel like comfort in the moment, but this will only lead to a viscous cycle in the long run.
If you are challenged with overeating, grazing, eating at night, or using food for comfort, you need to do whatever is necessary to change these harmful patterns. One reason that I focus on structured eating, is because it has so many benefits including better regeneration of every system in the body, and lessening of overall symptoms.
Refer to our Nutrition Tips article to get an idea of the best foods to eat at certain times of the day and then visit many of our stress coping articles in the website to help you better deal with stress. If needed, get professional help if this is something you cannot control on your own. It might also be a twelve step group or a counselor at your church.
Another stress reliever is journaling. The art of journaling in connection with coping with fibromyalgia has been taught by two doctors that I have previously studied. Dr. Sarno and Dr. Selfridge. They have concluded that there is a great mindbody correlation and that feelings of rage or anger or isolation need to be released through journaling.
Dr.Sarno and Dr.Selfridge's books are both available on the Books/Resources article here in the website. Both essential and shown to be effective when living with fibromyalgia.
Effective exercise is a great way to ‘vent’ our stress through movement. This means whatever is right for you individually. Stretching; low impact, range of motion exercises; and light cardio are very effective at not only getting the blood flowing around joints and muscles but also for centering the mind through focus.
The endorphins produced as one with fibro attains greater levels of conditioning will also help relieve not only stress but also improve mood and reduce pain levels. In fact, the National-Institute-for-Health-and-Clinical-Excellence in the UK suggests exercise for treatment of mild to moderate depression.
Follow me on our fitness page, Fibro Fit People, for ongoing support. Living with symptoms almost forty years, and working as a practitioner and trainer, I share the best ways to adapt not only to exercise but activities of daily living as well.
It’s now been confirmed that an exercise session of only 40-minutes can have an immediate benefit on mood. The most consistent results occur when you are undertaking aerobic exercise with which you are familiar.
Our world today is technology based. This is great for many reasons ( that is how you are here now) yet, let’s be sure that we are not spending too much time on computers, cell phones, TV’s, etc.
is an excellent stress reliever and key to coping with fibromyalgia.
Are you working on getting to bed earlier? We know the negative effects
of not sleeping according to the body clock so let’s work on practicing
an earlier bedtime. It's no easy task; I get that.
The fibro body often feels best in the evening hours, and we tend to create a viscous cycle by staying up late. So make this a priority by asking for support from family members, friends ,etc. That is crucial. Stress relief needs to be priority ONE when coping with Fibromyalgia.
Click here Living With Fibromyalgia to learn how to adhere to your body clock.