Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fibromyalgia & Stress!

It's no secret that fibro and stress don't like each other.  Do you know why, though?  Stress releases certain chemicals, such as cortisol, GH, and norepinephrine.  Stress can cause many health problems, including, but not limited to: weight gain, high blood pressure, stroke, metabolic syndrome, poor sleep, immunity, anxiety, emotional eating, cognitive impairment, and you guess it...increased fibromyalgia symptoms.  What do you do about all this stress, though?  I've always been incredibly annoyed at doctors whose advice was simply to "decrease your stress levels."  I've felt like saying "Excuse me?  If I knew how to make less stress in my life there wouldn't be so much stress in my life!"

When we are stressed we become more symptomatic and that in turn causes more stress which causes more symptoms which causes more stress...  Yeah, you get it.  It's a viscous circle.

So what do you do to decrease stress?  That's a really hard question, because of the many causes of stress we face. I'm going to give a few stressful scenarios and some ways to decrease stress.  Hopefully this will get you thinking and you will be able to de-stress, if only a little, in your own life.

Scenario #1: You have to pick up your in-laws from the airport for a week long stay.  You feel that you will be expected to have a meticulous house and great home cooked meals for your mother-in-law to approve of the woman who married her son.  Possible Solutions:  Can your husband, older child, friend, or other relative pick up your in-laws at the airport?  How about one day instead of making dinner one night in the middle of the week, surprising everyone with a bucket of KFC fried chicken?  There are also a lot of easy recipes to be found on the internet, so you don't have to work hard to work hard to find cook for your in-laws.  There is a site for busy cooks here.  Another idea is to make chili or soup ahead of time and freeze it in containers.  Once you decide to serve chili or soup that day then get the containers out and put them in the fridge in the morning to thaw.  Then that evening before supper you can warm up the chili or soup in a pot on the stove.   Easy chili recipes can be found here and easy soup recipes can be found here.  Another option is to throw ingredients into a crock pot in the morning so that dinner will be ready that evening. Crock pot recipes can be found here and here.  I buy pre-made rolls in the freezer section when I can because they taste just as good as homemade.  If you want to serve dessert, most grocery stores and most large department stores (such as Wal-Mart) sell pre-made desserts in or near their bakery.  Can you enlist your children to help clean house?  Perhaps a good friend or family member can help you clean house.

Scenario #2: You need help.  Your're at the point that you can't clean your own house anymore and you're worried what your significant other will think of you for not being able to clean house.  Possible Solutions: I'm going to answer this one with my personal experience.  I had to realize that my house will not be the spotless house like it used to be before I got sick.  It took awhile for me to come to terms with this.  It also makes it hard to clean because my DH is also disabled.  I finally had to break down and get a home health aide, which is paid for by Medicaid and Medicare.  Not everyone is this lucky.  Some people are able to pay cleaning persons to come in and clean for them.  Again, most of us are not this lucky.  So what do you do to avoid the stress of a messy house?  Are there any jobs you can split with your SO?  Perhaps your SO can wash and dry the clothes while you fold it and put it in the drawers.  I have a hard time cooking and washing dishes, but some people have found that sitting on a stool has helped them to cook and wash dishes.  Do you have a dish washer?  If you don't is it affordable for you to get one?  I personally don't have one, but if you do then that may be a job you can do by yourself.  Vacuuming tends to be very painful for me, but I can pick up after myself and not leave the floor messy.  Can you bag up the trash but not be able to carry it outside?  Another case of teamwork is required here.  I can make the bed on good days, and my home health aide makes it the other days.  Splitting up housework is a great way to go.  Don't just split it with your SO, if you have older children that can help, get them started cleaning house. 

Scenario #3: What if you are a single person with no way to get to the grocery store, clean, or cook?  Possible Solutions:  This is a really hard one to answer.  I've been in this situation before and it is really hard to deal with.  Do you have a support system you can rely on?  It's great if you do, but sometimes you don't have one.  If you don't have a support system you need to find a way to get through extra painful times, or if you are always in severe pain.  How do you do that, though?  My first advice to single people is to get a pet that is low maintenance.  A beta fish, some cats, and numerous other animals make low maintenance pets that can lower your stress levels and increase "good" hormones in your brain.  Buying paper plates and bowls make it easier to on washing dishes.  Some people even buy plastic "silverware" to cut down on dishes even more.  A lot of the ideas in scenario #1 apply to this scenario as well, such as crock pot recipes, freezing chili or soup, ordering chicken at KFC, etc.  Be careful not to eat out too much, that can increase weight and cholesterol, among other things.  If you have a friend who can grocery shop for you or go along with you to pick up heavy items or items on the top or bottom shelves (requiring to reach or squat uncomfortably) then ask her/him to go with you.  Do you have relative that can help?  I suggest trying to do one cleaning job each day.  An example schedule could go like this: Monday-sweep and if you can mop, Tuesday-wash dishes, Wednesday-in too much pain to clean house, Thursday-wash dishes, Friday-do laundry, Saturday-wash dishes, Sunday-clean the bathroom.  Notice that on my example schedule on Wednesday you were in too much pain to work.  That is okay.  No one is judging you, and if they are, they shouldn't be.  Do what you can do, but don't do more than your body can handle.  Remember, sometimes you feel like you can do anything, but the next day your are in a flare for working way to hard for what your body can handle.  The key word you have to remember is moderation.

Scenario #4:  What if you want to apply for disability but have no idea where to start?  Possible Solutions: First I'd go to Social Security's Disability page if you live in the USA and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in the UK.  I got disability (I live in the USA) on my first try, which is unusual.  Some people get lawyers the first time they apply, while I believe most people get lawyers once they've been denied.  A disability lawyer usually collects a portion of your backpay.  Backpay is the money you would have received if you would have had disability once you applied.  For instance, say I applied in January 2010, and after being denied I got a lawyer.  In December 2010 I finally got my disability.  For this example say I get $500 a month.  So I'd take ($500 x 12) = $6,000 backpay.  The lawyer gets a portion of that packpay.  Then you would get your first disability payment in the beginning of January 2011 in the amount of $500.  I was approved the first time because I wen through a free agency called Tri-County Center.  Perhaps there is a similar agency where you live.

Scenario #5:  What if your main cause of stress is pain?  Possible Solutions: Pain, pain, pain!  Pain is a leading cause of stress for us fibromites.  How do you decrease the stress caused by pain, though?  There are a few different ways.  I enjoy yoga and want to try Tai Chi.  I have four ice packs I keep in the freezer, two big ones, and two little ones.  I sleep with at least four pillows to try to find that elusive comfortable spot.  I wrap myself in my electric blanket during my flares, and I get plenty of sleep, even if it is daytime sleep.  I, like a lot of fibromites, often have trouble falling asleep without medication.  I have found that my muscle relaxer and Benedryl helps me to fall asleep.  Get involved in any hobbies you like or find new hobbies.  My hobbies are: writing, reading, pen palling, crafts, collecting books, collecting Precious Moments, blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, in no particular order.  Listening to music I love also calms me, even if it is Lady Gaga.  I don't think it matters so much on what the music is, unless you are trying to sleep with it, as much as it matters that you really like it.  Heating pads are nice.  Try having a time a day where you don't talk about your health, to remind yourself that you are more than just someone with an illness.  Get educated, so you know what is happening to your body, how to make yourself feel better, and it helps you be aware if your symptoms are receding or accelerating.  I cannot stress enough to get educated on any illness you may have.  It will only give you power over it, rather than the illness having power over you.  Have you tried medication?  There are three medications that have been FDA approved for fibromyalgia and many more that are prescribed "off label."  Off label simply means that the FDA hasn't approved that medication for fibromyalgia.  This doesn't mean it is dangerous, but it doesn't mean it isn't dangerous, either.  I look up all my new medications on , including the ones that are CAM (complementary and alternative medicine).

I hope that this helps!


  1. Thanks for the busy cooks link! I've never come across that site before and I love quick recipes!

    One thing I would suggest for the not being able to grocery shop scenario was to look into grocery delivery services that are available in the area.

  2. Wonderful post! Thank you hugs and purrs from the cats!


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