Do you experience fibromyalgia stress flares? To be honest, for the longest time I had no idea of how destructive and disrupting stress was in my chronic life. However, a few years ago after a major reduction in my overall pain levels, it became crystal clear!
It is unrealistic to think we can avoid all stress. However, there are effective coping techniques and ways to decrease the amount of stress in our lives.
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What is a Fibromyalgia Stress Flare?
A fibromyalgia stress flare takes place after experiencing physical or psychological trauma. Basically, anything that causes our minds or bodies stress may trigger a flare.
Stress flare symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Increased pain
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- Fibro fog
- Difficulty with speaking
Sometimes the symptoms present themselves when stress first strikes. Other times it waits until we get past the moment of crisis or when we feel safe.
Fibromyalgia stress flares may disrupt your work and personal life. My latest flare set my work schedule behind by two days. And forget using that time to have a friend over, my flare left me unable to express my thoughts verbally as well as through written word.
What Type of Stress Triggers a Fibromyalgia Flare?
Stress comes in many forms. Some forms were not what I would have considered “bad” stress. Not all stress is as serious as experiencing a traumatic life event.
I experienced a fibromyalgia stress flare after the opening day of the new Rise of the Resistance attraction at Disneyland. The excitement made it difficult to sleep the night before. Lack of sleep, anxiety over not knowing if we would get a boarding pass, and then waiting all day to find out if we would get to ride was more than my body could take. I experienced increased pain along with severe fibro fog for three days!
Potential triggers include but are not limited to:
- Lack of sleep
- Traumatic life events such as car accidents, physical and mental abuse, and witnessing a bank robbery.
- Changes on weather
- A change in schedule
- Worrying about family, finances, etc.
- Extreme excitement
- Increased pain
How I Cope with Stress
To this day, I suffer from PTSD from multiple events in my life. I want to vomit when someone walks by wearing the same cologne that my childhood abuser did. A 2002 bank robbery that occurred while my family and I were inside, has left me unable to enter a bank without triggering an anxiety attack. Multiple car accidents are the reason my heart skips a beat and my blood goes cold whenever I hear tires screech.
It’s impossible to avoid all stress. I can’t forbid every man in this world from wearing a popular cologne. Although I have managed to do the majority of my banking without going into a bank, there have been times when going inside was my only option. Not driving is no way of avoiding my accident trigger. I don’t even have to be in a car when I hear the sound to trigger fear of an accident about to happen. But thankfully there are coping techniques to get through them.
My personal in the moment coping techniques include deep breathing and distraction. Things that I do between stress flares that have decreased the severity and frequency of them are better managing my pain with PEMF therapy and medicinal cannabis. CBD helps with daily anxiety. An increased dosage is extremely helpful when experiencing a severe anxiety attack. And last but not least, I leave situations where I feel like I am not able to protect myself emotionally.
Just a reminder that I am not a physician or medical professional of any kind. I am just sharing my experiences which should not be mistaken for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor about making changes to your healthcare plan.
Techniques that may help you:
- Deep breathing
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Stress therapy
- Limiting exposure to stressful situations
How to Reduce Stress in Your Life
Although it is impossible to avoid all stress, it is possible to limit some of it.
Make a list of what causes stress in your life.
There are some things that you will have to find a different way of reacting to. One example is traffic. How do you react when traffic comes to a standstill? Do you start fuming and fussing about it? Or do you make the best of it by singing along with your favorite songs or listening to the latest episode of a podcast? If traffic is the cause of your arriving late to appointments, try leaving earlier.
Another example is avoiding dysfunctional gatherings. Being related to someone who has abused you in any manner is not a reason to pretend that you are all one big happy family at a holiday get-together. Just because others choose to break bread with or protect your abuser, it doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. You always have the right to decline an invitation. How you choose to explain it is up to you. Just remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for protecting your mental health.
Go through your list and think of ways to react differently, what you can do to make them less stressful, and which items should be avoided.
Have you recognized what is triggering your fibromyalgia stress flares?
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