Whether you're searching for a diagnosis for your pain, newly diagnosed, or an "old pro" when it comes to having chronic pain, there's always room to improve your chronic pain warrior skills. In fact, these tips apply to most chronic illnesses (hello to our friends with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, POTS, Crohn's disease, Endometriosis, etc.). Let's dive into SEVEN ways you can improve your chronic illness warrior skills so you can live a life with less stress and more energy!
Is the phrase “knowledge is power” overused? Maybe, but is it true? Absolutely. And when you have a chronic illness, knowledge is particularly powerful as it guides your mindset, conversations with medical providers, and so much more. As discussed in our blog post How To Reduce Your Fibromyalgia Pain in 30 Minutes, there is research to back up that when chronic pain warriors have reduced pain when they understand the science of how pain works. For fibromyalgia warriors, check out our free eBook!
When it comes to expectations, chronic illness warriors sometimes fall into two extremes: we have super high expectations of ourselves and feel defeated when we “fall short,” OR we have few expectations of ourselves and feel defeated when we think of who we are now vs. who we used to be. And you know what? That sounds exhausting, and I want you to throw both of those mindsets out of the window. It is important to set expectations, so you don’t repeatedly over-do it and flare. When it comes to setting expectations, focus on where you are now and your current capabilities. As hard as it is to let go of the productivity of your pre-illness self, you need to. Now, think about where you want to be, establish some goals, and push yourself a teeny tiny bit every day towards them.
You might be irritated at this statement, but warrior-to-warrior: you're not going to get better if you don't think you're going to get better. I know that chronic illness has taken a lot from your past, and you owe it to yourself that it won't take away your future. With your future self in mind, it's time to establish some goals to work toward and look forward to. If you're not sure where to start, check out this blog post on How To Set Goals for Fibromyalgia Recovery.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
While it's fantastic to work toward goals and milestones in your chronic illness journey, be mindful to not "bite off more than you chew." If you are in the process of switching your sleep schedule, beginning mindful movement and changing up your eating habits all at once, you're doing too much. Not only are you doing too much, but you're also going to be back to where you started and potentially in a flare. Instead, focus on creating a sustainable routine by changing one habit at a time. Once you've mastered and incorporated one habit, focus on the next change.
While I hope standing up for yourself isn’t difficult for you, I know many of us struggle with this one (myself included). A few days ago, I went to a new specialist and I was NERVOUS. It’s been a while since I’ve met a new doctor. And like so many in our community, I’ve had my fair share of medical gaslighting. But here’s the deal: no one knows your body and your story like you do. When it comes to appointments, write down the points you want to talk about and practice aloud (yes, OUT LOUD) what you want to say and how you want to say it. This same concept applies to difficult conversations with loved ones about the support you need.
Identify Your Support System
Speaking of support, when I did my graduate research interviewing women with fibromyalgia, one thing they all identified as critical for managing their illness was having a support system. We all have different reasons for not asking for help or letting others in on how challenging it’s been to manage chronic illness. Another warrior-to-warrior moment: you need other people, and there’s no shame in needing emotional, physical, or any other kind of support. You’re an amazing person, and I’m sure if you let your support system know that you need help with picking up groceries or debriefing after a big medical appointment, they would be happy to support you...you just need to ask.
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Fibromyalgia is not a "one size fits all" diagnosis. What works for some doesn't work for others. The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Should you have any health-related questions, please consult your physician or other health care provider promptly.
Teresa & Hannah are fellow fibromyalgia warriors. Teresa is a certified dietary manager and wellness coach. Hannah is an occupational therapist. Together, we're a mother-daughter duo on a mission to empower others to fight against fibro.