Stress and fibromyalgia

Stress is a common occurrence in fibromyalgia, often connected to physical symptoms such as fatigue and chronic pain.

BSc in Health Studies, Dip.Nut
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An introduction to stress and fibromyalgia

Stress is a feeling of being unable to cope with events or experiences. This can be described as feeling out of control, anxious or panicky, or being under too much physical or emotional pressure.

Feeling stressed is common in today’s hectic world. However, people suffering fibromyalgia are often put under further pressure when trying to cope with troublesome symptoms, such as pain and fatigue.

Why does fibromyalgia cause stress?

The causes of fibromyalgia are not yet fully understood, making it difficult to understand the reasoning behind the symptoms. However, several justifiable speculations have been posed.

Symptoms of pain and fatigue may be the reason why fibromyalgia patients often suffer from increased levels of stress. Generally speaking, such symptoms are rarely long-term, and often a physical explanation behind the symptoms can be found. However, the symptoms are neither short-term nor easily explained with fibromyalgia, causing many patients to worry about serious underlying health conditions. This can quickly raise levels of stress, particularly when patients are bringing up young families.

However, it is often thought that stress is not so much a symptom of fibromyalgia as a cause, or at least an aggravating factor. When we are stressed, much of our energy is diverted from normal muscle and cognitive function into the stress response trigger. This involves increasing our heart rate, blood pressure and sweat production, and blocking out all other factors than just the stress trigger. This wears us out quickly, leaving us with little energy afterwards. However, when stress is a long-term issue, we gradually become more susceptible to other health conditions, such as fibromyalgia, as the body is never really given the chance to fully recover. This may lead to further health issues such as food intolerances.

Additionally, feeling stressed can result in sleeping problems. The body needs sleep to fully recover and repair muscle function, as well as to allow our cognitive function to remain sharp. However, when the body does not gain enough of this essential rest time, other symptoms can worsen, leading to a more severe case of fibromyalgia.

You cannot think constructively between 11pm and 7am, so ban thinking between these hours. It can be dealt with better in the morning.

What home remedies are there for stress?

There are many tried and tested stress management techniques, some of which you may find more effective than others. Finding a technique which works for you is important as it is likely to have a positive impact on your everyday life activities and relationships.

Things as simple as taking a deep calming breath when things get tough can make the world of difference. Deep breathing relieves nervous tension and reduces the stress response of the body. Counting to ten before responding to a stressful situation can also help.

Making to-do lists and reminders on calendars is also a good way of ordering your thoughts so that your list of things to do doesn't become too overwhelming. (It will also reduce your chances of stressing about forgetting things!)

Although having a bit of time to yourself can help to calm you down, it is important to keep in regular contact with friends and family. Staying sociable helps you to keep things in perspective and value the important things in life. It also means that you will be smiling and laughing more regularly – both great stress-busting tips.

Take time each day to relax, by reading a book, going for a walk, or meditating. This is best done in the hour prior to going to bed to help you to get a good night’s sleep.

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Are there herbal remedies to help me?

Complementing home remedies with herbal ones is often a good technique. Taking a herbal tea such as peppermint or chamomile just before bedtime can be effective in helping you to relax in time for a good restful sleep.

Throughout the day, the herb Valerian may be effective. It acts as a natural tranquiliser, calming the nerves and helping you deal more effectively with stressful situations. This herb can be found in licensed herbal remedy Stress Relief Daytime.

There are also several combination flower essences such as Emergency Essence and Relaxation Essence, which combine fresh extracts of several herbs to help you manage the symptoms associated with the stress of modern day life.

What about conventional medicines?

If you are unable to manage your stress symptoms by way of home and herbal remedies, your doctor may suggest some form of prescription medication, such as an anti-depressant or a sedative. Due to the associated side-effects of such medication, they are not usually prescribed unless your symptoms are severe. You should discuss with your doctor if this is the best type of treatment for your condition.

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