Tell someone when you're having a difficult day

You might be tempted to keep it to yourself, but resist that urge. While some alone time is a good way to relax, isolating yourself for days can end up making you feel lonely. Tell an understanding friend or family member that you're feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. But don't dwell on your signs and symptoms.

In-person or online support groups can link you to people who are also dealing with fibromyalgia. In addition to the comfort of talking with people who are facing the same types of challenges, members often share coping techniques that might work for you, too.

Spend your energy 'pennies' wisely

Sometimes it helps to think of the amount of energy you have as pennies in a piggy bank. You need to prioritize tasks so that you won't run out of pennies before the day is done. Pace yourself and take frequent breaks to rest. This mindset is crucial on days when your symptoms flare.

Take a look at what's coming up on your calendar. Identify what's necessary and what's not. Focus your energy in the next few days on what's necessary. Prioritizing your tasks can help reduce your stress levels. People who are overly stressed often have tense muscles, which tend to amplify fibromyalgia pain.

Ask for help when you need it
Make a list of people who can help you on bad days. For instance, a family member may be willing to fix meals or run errands for a day. You may be reluctant to be a burden, but your friends and family love you and want to help.

Other resources in your community may be available to help you complete necessary tasks when you're having a really difficult day. Temporary changes that might help you get through a tough day might include shopping at a local grocery store that delivers. Using public transportation or a taxi may be an easier, less stressful way of getting where you need to go. Or you may be able to recruit neighborhood kids to help with yardwork.

Find distractions
Identify activities that distract you from your symptoms. Examples include:

  • Funny movies
  • Quick-read books
  • Outings with friends
  • Favorite museums
  • Beautiful walking paths

Relax
Set aside time for relaxation on your daily schedule. Add more relaxation time on days when your fibromyalgia symptoms flare. Relaxation techniques include:

  • Deep-breathing exercises. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose to a count of five. Hold the air in your lungs for a count of five and then breathe out slowly through your mouth to a count of 10.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. Tighten and then relax body parts one at a time, starting at either your head or your feet.
  • Meditation. Focusing on a single object or repeating a particular sound can help quiet your mind and relax your muscles.
  • Visualization. Take an imaginary trip to a beautiful place. Use all your senses to experience the location as fully as possible. Feel the sun's warmth. Hear the birds.

Practice makes perfect

The more often you use coping strategies, the easier it becomes. Different strategies work for different people. Something that's worked in the past may not work today, so be flexible and try the next thing on your list.

If you have fibromyalgia, difficult days are inevitable. But planning ahead can help you take control of the bad days so that fibromyalgia pain doesn't take control of you.

Dec. 16, 2011 See more In-depth