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The Emotional Effects of Fibromyalgia

Living with fibromyalgia can affect you physically and emotionally. Fibromyalgia is stressful. The pain and stress of fibromyalgia raise your body’s level of cortisol, a stress hormone. Adjusting to the disease and finding treatments that work can be frustrating. This fits with the fact that about 20% of people with fibromyalgia report feeling anxious or depressed. 

Don’t let fibromyalgia bring you down. Instead, do what you can to reduce the psychic toll of the illness. Integrating various coping strategies can affect how your body responds to the disease and give you the tools you need to feel better emotionally and physically:

Daily Time Outs

Set aside time each day for meditating or deep breathing exercises. These calming techniques can help you manage the stress hormones that make fibromyalgia symptoms worse. You might also try guided imagery, biofeedback, or progression relaxation. You can learn these mindfulness techniques from a trained practitioner, classes, books, and DVDs or audiotapes. Get into the habit of regularly practicing them on your own. 

Yoga

A recent study in the Journal of Pain Research found that women with fibromyalgia who practiced Hatha yoga (a gentle form of the exercise) for 75 minutes twice weekly for eight weeks felt less pain and stress. Their bodies also produced less cortisol. Overall, the women were more accepting of their disease. 

Another study revealed physical activity helps reduce depression in people with fibromyalgia.  Whichever form of yoga you try, be sure to modify the poses in response to pain. For instance, don’t hold the pose as long, or use a yoga block for support. 

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Positive Self-Talk

If you have fibromyalgia, you may find it easy to put yourself down for not being able to do as much as you used to, for depending more on others, or even blaming yourself for the disease. But negative self-talk is not helpful. Keep your self-talk as positive as possible. Tell yourself, “Fibromyalgia isn’t my fault,” and “I’m going to do all I can to control the disease.” Focus your self-talk on what you need to do to get better, not on what might have possibly caused your illness. 

Therapy

If you are overwhelmed by the illness, consider seeing a therapist who practices cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy can be helpful for people with fibromyalgia. It focuses on helping you think positively and redefining your beliefs about illness, to help you feel more hopeful.

Music

In one study involving 22 fibromyalgia patients, those who listened to music of their choice were able to function better physically than patients who didn’t. The study found that music can boost mood enough to overcome the perception of pain, especially before doing something physically taxing. If you don’t have one already, invest in a portable device so you can listen to your favorites at home and on the go.  

Support Groups

Getting feedback from others with fibromyalgia can give you the inspiration you need to manage your illness better. Blogs and message boards can be safe places for you to get ideas and talk openly with others in the same situation. What are they doing to cope that you might try? How are they managing to get tasks done? What are they doing to thrive despite their condition? 

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Ask your doctor if there are support groups in your community that you can visit. You can also search for a support group online. The right support can give you the tips and encouragement you need to focus on feeling better.

References:

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