This guest post has been written by Ann-Marie D’Arcy-Sharpe, a Pain Educator and Blogger at Pathways Health Ltd. She and I both live with Fibromyalgia; she also lives with Arthritis and Bipolar disorder. Her article is so timely for me, as I have been suffering from the daily fatigue that comes with living with our condition. Please enjoy reading her tips!
One of the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia, along with widespread pain, is fatigue. Fatigue is a debilitating, all encompassing feeling of exhaustion. Personally I find fatigue one of the most difficult symptoms of fibromyalgia to live with and to push through. It can feel as though your entire body is being weighed down. Every action feels like an extreme effort. It can even make you feel as though you’re thinking through a fog.
We’re all individuals so we will each experience our symptoms, including fatigue, in different ways and to different degrees. My fatigue is a symptom I experience daily, even when my pain levels and other symptoms are well managed. Over time I’ve had to learn how to cope with fatigue so that I can function in the best way I can in spite of it. I wanted to share five coping tips I hope could be useful for other fibromyalgia warriors.
1. Allow yourself to rest
It’s so easy to be hard on yourself and to try to keep pushing through your fatigue. However, allowing yourself to take rests when you need them can help to keep your energy levels up and allow you to function more productively. Take regular breaks to sit or lie down and relax in between doing activities. You could even allow yourself to have short naps to boost your energy levels.
It’s also really important to pace your activity to prevent a flare. It’s tempting to try to do as much as you can when you have a low pain day or feel your energy levels are higher than usual, but this can just wear you out and actually make you more fatigued before long. Instead, try to remember to take breaks even when you feel good.
2. Keep a regular sleep schedule
Sleep can be a really difficult goal to achieve when you live with a chronic illness! Of course, when we aren’t sleeping properly this only adds to our fatigue. Trying to keep a regular sleep schedule can help to regulate your body clock and with consistency, can help you to sleep more restfully.
A regular sleep schedule simply means trying to go to sleep around the same time each night, and wake up around the same time each morning. You can also implement other sleep hygiene habits such as taking time to wind down before bed; making your bedroom as comfortable as possible; and keeping your bedroom for relaxation only.
3. Plan and prioritize tasks
Sometimes it’s simply not possible to get every task on your list completed, and that’s completely ok! Prioritizing tasks so you do what is most important first ensures you get the most urgent tasks completed in case you run out of energy later. It’s also worthwhile breaking up bigger tasks into smaller, bite-sized steps. This can be more achievable and stop you from getting burnt out so quickly. You can even spread one big task over a number of days, rather than feeling pressured to do it all at once.
4. Ask for help when you need it
It can be really difficult to ask for help. It can feel embarrassing and even make you feel like a burden. It’s really tough if you used to be particularly independent, to now need to ask for assistance. However, everyone needs help sometimes and there’s absolutely no shame in allowing those who love you to be there for you.
Asking for help to get practical tasks done can be invaluable. You could ask for help with housework, shopping, cooking, attending appointments: anything that you feel would be useful for you. Remember you can also reach out when you need emotional support. Sometimes just talking to someone you trust about what you are going through can feel like a weight off your shoulders.
5. Keep yourself more alert
There are some simple ways you can keep yourself more alert during the day. While these, of course, aren’t a magical fix for fatigue, they can help to keep you going and focused on the task at hand when you really need to be as awake as possible.
Refresh your face
Using a refreshing facial spray every so often can help to wake you up. You could even put it in the fridge if you’re near one: the cold can be a nice awakening jolt to the system. You could also simply go to the bathroom and splash cold water on your face.
Eat regular healthy snacks
Eating regular snacks helps to keep your energy levels up. It’s really important that you eat healthy snacks, such as fruit or nuts. If you eat sugary snacks, while they might give you a rush of energy at first, they will soon make your energy levels crash even lower. Healthy snacks provide sustainable energy.
If you’re sitting still for a long period of time, fatigue can hit hard. It can be difficult to focus and sometimes, even hard to keep your eyes open. Try to get up and move around as much as you can. While this might seem like it’s going to drain your energy, even just a quick walk around the room can help to wake you up a bit.
Switch up your tasks
Even if you’re doing something you enjoy, sometimes when we’re focused on one task for a period of time we find ourselves ‘zoning out’. To prevent this, it’s a great idea to switch back and forth between tasks to keep your mind engaged and keep you on your toes.
Even though living with fatigue can be incredibly hard, it is possible to keep going. You can live a full life despite fibromyalgia! There are effective, proven treatments available which can help you to get a handle on your chronic pain and enable you to reduce your symptoms. These treatments and pain management techniques truly can make a huge difference to your quality of life.
Lastly, remember to be kind to yourself! Encourage yourself gently and don’t be too harsh with yourself. Celebrate every achievement, no matter how small it seems. Remember that whatever you have done today is enough.
Here’s hoping you celebrated some small victory today! Do you have other coping tips? Which is your favorite tip that Ann-Marie shared?
Please visit Pathways Health to read some of her other blogs, to help me thank her for this wonderful guest post.