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The iPhone Apps I Use to Help Fight 'Fibro Fog'

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Anyone fighting an illness that affects cognitive ability understands the term “brain fog.” When you have fibromyalgia it’s called “fibro fog.” One of fibromyalgia patients’ biggest complaints, after pain and fatigue, is cognitive dysfunction. Many patients complain that fibro fog can be the most debilitating symptom. Fibro fog can feel like you are living in a haze, or underwater.

Fibro fog can also cause memory problems (short-term and long-term) along with confusion and problems with concentration. Some lesser known brain fog symptoms include problems with perception, problem-solving and multitasking. Fibro fog can cause aphasia and dysphasia. This can be embarrassing and frustrating when talking with others. It can often lead to a phone phobia or social anxiety.

I understand the frustration that fibro fog brings into daily life. It is one of the biggest problems I face. I isolate myself, making my social anxiety a battle every time I leave my house.

I have found ways that help control the impact my fibro fog can have on my every day. It’s not a cure – just some easily implemented uses of your iPhone. The more you use the features on your phone, the more of a habit they become and the more you can learn to trust it (mostly).

Contacts App

I keep essential information in the easy-to-use app. Just look up or add a new contact and input extra information you don’t want to forget. There is nothing like the guilt of a missed birthday of a loved one – I know. I add phone numbers and addresses (as many as I need – one for home, one for work, etc.), email addresses, birthdays and website URLs.

There is even a place for notes under the contact it pertains to. I have used it for reminders, such as a potluck meal needed or a condo buzzer number. I’ll even make a note if I have borrowed something so I remember to return it. It doesn’t work for library books, in my experience – those buggers still get returned at least a day late! Every time! Remember DVD rental stores? I danced when they announced no late fees!

I add notes with doctor contacts. Medical specialty, days/hours open and what the cancellation/reschedule policy is. I’ll add tests awaiting results, diagnoses, follow-up tests and medications. It’s so much less stressful to have the info at hand for future doctors I may see.

I like to make notes after medical appointments. I include a description of visit and the action plan on whatever follow-up is needed. It has helped when I am confused by medication changes. These notes have come in handy while talking to another doctor. My phone was perfect for the job.

The iPhone can be synced with other devices (desktop, laptop and tablet) to keep the info handy and up-to-date. It’s simple to add, edit or delete a contact at any time.

Camera Feature

There are so many versatile reasons I use my camera (rarely selfies, but too many of my dogs).

My sister showed me how she takes pictures of the closest sign to where she parks. (It might be a lane number, a floor or another marker you would recognize.) Better than my way – to aimlessly walk around clicking my alarm button and hoping to hear my car honk. I know I could also drop a pin. There are also apps to find your car but after trying them, I find this easier to remember!

I take a picture of any paperwork I may need to review. It is easy to upload the pictures to a tablet or computer for a larger screen to read on later.

If I am in a store and I see a few books that look interesting, I will take a picture of the covers and look them up at the library. There is usually a wait, but borrowing saves a tree and saves me money. I will buy books after I borrow them if I want a copy. That rarely happens since I don’t re-read books – there are too many others waiting to be discovered.

I have pictures on my phone for items like the dog food bag so I remember what brand/flavor they like.

Have an odd or very specific request on my grocery list? I take a picture of it or the flier; then it’s easy to look for it in the store and it helps match it to the right kind. I never remember without a picture if it isn’t “my” brand.

I’ll take selfies in changing rooms (only of myself, dressed!) when I am shopping for something specific, like a dress for a wedding, or when I’m not 100 percent sure about something. If I go to different stores I can remember what dresses, shoes, jeans, etc. I tried on and what they looked like. I try to get one picture of me in the outfits and another picture of the price tag that usually shows the store, size and price for comparison.

I always mean to take before and after pictures of projects I have completed. Even if it’s only to show myself. Every accomplishment should be rewarded. Chances are I worked through some major discomfort or pain to make it happen. It doesn’t need to be big – even an extra 30 minutes of self-care, like a hot bath. Or a treat like homemade comfort food.

Calendar App

I probably use my calendar the most. I try and remember to add all appointments and meetings as I make them – if I wait, I forget. I add reminders for when it’s time to make an appointment (like the dentist). I can schedule alarms and reminders ahead of time.

An area I find useful is scheduling phone calls, an area I really struggle with due to anxiety. (And one of the reasons I no longer work the front desk at a hearing clinic.)

I add daily reminders to myself. Errands I need to run, emails to return and items to remember (like those darned library books).

Everyday chores can be scheduled based on how my mind and body are feeling, my pain level and my fatigue. I can write down daily goals ahead of time but can move them to a different time or day if I am not up to do them when I had planned. It’s OK to have “no” days. Breaking up the week into smaller blocks of time is so much easier on my body than trying to do a marathon clean in a day.

I’ll keep a note and schedule bigger jobs for when I am having a better day. Or I wait until I have help or can delegate (e.g. husband mowing the lawn and son making dinner while I handle the laundry – three jobs done faster than it would take me to do one).

I keep track of things that come up and that will come up again. Dog grooming appointments, dog flea treatments. Oil changes and car maintenance. A handy reminder to check the hot tub chemicals. Medication renewals (this one is super handy). Even changing the clocks (hate it) and batteries in my smoke detectors for daylight savings. Hair appointments…whatever. I have used it to keep track of refund timelines on bigger purchases, in case we are unhappy with one.

Block off times daily (on repeat for as long as you need) for when I’m unavailable (e.g. if I have to take kids to and from school). Helps me plan the day better. Do you meal plan? Schedule it on the day you want to make it. This reminds me to take out something from the freezer.

I also use it to remind myself to schedule “me time.” It might just be a quiet bath, going for a walk with my dogs, getting my hair done or having a nap. I need to schedule time for it! Is there a TV program I’ve been waiting to see? I set a reminder or better yet, record it.

Sync to another device (laptop, tablet or desktop) so the information stays current and valid. Share appointments with family so they can see when you are busy and vice versa. This helps keep everyone on the same page and makes everyone accountable.

It can be set up with reminders of birthdays, anniversaries holidays or events via an email or Facebook.

If I’m having trouble remembering when to take my medication, I set it in my calendar on a daily repeat with an alarm.

Notes App

This is my second most used app, though I am using it less as I use my calendar more.

Have you ever walked into a grocery store sure you’ll remember the three items you need? You wrote a list, but if only you could find it… Then you wander the aisles, trying desperately trying to remember what you came in for. I am much better at keeping track of my phone than a list, though I still lose it in the house at least once a day.

I keep multiple lists set up and saved – the ones I use most often. I find it easy to add and delete items. I have lists for groceries based on the store. I try and prioritize jobs and break these down into manageable chunks of time. I try to ask for help and delegate when I can’t.

I have broken down my cleaning schedule by room and I try and do something every day. I find it also helps me remember where I left off if I do have to stop before the job is finished.

For big long-term goals, the to-do list is divided by room, job or project. I just add/delete as jobs come to mind or are completed or change priorities. I try and prioritize the jobs and break these down into manageable chunks of time. I try to ask for help and delegate when I can’t.

I keep a list of things I want to discuss with my doctor. A list of my current medications, vitamins and supplements for doctor appointments. The side effects of past medications and when I took them are useful when seeing other doctors.

Books I want to read, movies I would like to watch and songs to download all get added to a list, or I will forget! I also write down recipes to try (with a reference to locate the recipe later or the entire recipe if I don’t have a paper/pen handy).

Numbers to remember such as my library card number for online borrowing or my old video rental number (yes, I just deleted this five years after they closed – oops). Do not include account/password info, credit card info, etc. – use a secure app for these.

Write down notes of anything else that gets affected by fibro fog. Everyone needs help remembering different things – make note of them and try keeping a list!

When do I work on this? It’s a great distraction while waiting in a doctor’s office, waiting at the pharmacy, waiting in the car while my hubby runs an errand or while having a bath. Whenever I have a few quiet moments to settle my thoughts!

Some other ideas might be: kids’ clothing sizes, tracking info for Christmas shopping, gift ideas and already-bought gifts, tracking info for online purchases, immunization records, food journals, emergency info for others (such as an elderly parent), quick verbal directions, spending journal, meal plans for the week or the kids’ schedules.


I love text messaging. Being able to write out what I need to say creates much less anxiety than a phone call. Texting says to me, “It’s not important enough to phone about, but I am thinking of you, so get back to me when you can.” Or “I need a quick answer, not a conversation.” It helps me immensely with my phone anxiety!

Obviously, it is a great way to keep connected to family and friends. From “thinking of you” to special events. Conversations and pictures can be sent in “real time” so I can feel included if I am too ill to be there. Or I can send pictures to someone else that isn’t there. I can share them while texting, via Facebook or email. Sometimes they are awesome enough to print and frame!

When my brain is “autocorrecting” my mouth or I can’t find the word that I need, no one knows. I can take the time to respond and edit the text before I send it if it doesn’t make sense.

One of my specialists confirms her appointments via text message – I love it! My library sends out a return reminder two days before a book is due (and yet my books are still late).

More and more companies are using text messaging for promotions and customer service, making it easier than ever to reach out. Love it!

Alarm/Timer/Clock App

Before fibromyalgia, I was always on time, usually early, and people that were late were “rude.” I didn’t realize it was anxiety that was fueling me. I didn’t realize just how hard it could be for people to get themselves ready and out the door on time when they have a chronic illness. I do now – it’s hard, and I don’t judge people like I used to.

Since the fibromyalgia symptoms started, I struggle with getting anywhere on time. I am always underestimating how long something will take (a shower or traffic), the effort I’ll need or how I will be feeling.

I use my alarm to remind me to get in the shower – one of the things I procrastinate on. I set one 30 minutes before I should leave so I can try and get out the door on time. This gives me a little wiggle room while still getting out the door in enough time.

I use mine as a bedroom alarm clock. It charges on my nightstand so it works at reducing clutter (like a traditional alarm clock). I can’t stand the glowing light of a clock when I am trying to sleep, so this keeps it darker.

I can set an alarm to remind me to take medication. I know my “night meds” but if there are any I need to remember to take during the day, I use an alarm. I’ll set it when doing laundry to motivate me to flip the loads or fold. I use it while cooking (OK, baking…my hubby does the cooking) and find it handy to keep with me. I might not hear the kitchen timer if I am in another room or outside on the deck.

I use it to set limits. I set a timer for a set amount of time to work on a project (typically 15 to 30 minutes at a time). When the timer goes off I stop, or I’ll regret it later!

Using my phone also means I don’t need to wear a watch. This is useful since they hurt my wrists and I am allergic to most metals, so I usually get hives from them.

Weather App

Changes in weather are a huge complaint for those with fibro, myself included. I have a love/hate relationship with the weather app but I wouldn’t know what to do without it. Being able to look at the weekly forecast, I can “estimate” how my body will feel. Living in Vancouver, BC, we get a lot of rain… a lot! Dampness can set me into a fibro flare, so planning errands around those days are crucial for me.

I, like most people with fibromyalgia, have sensitivities to changing temperatures. Fibro doesn’t like when I am too hot or too cold. Being too hot makes me nauseous, dizzy, causes migraines and makes me very cranky. Fibromyalgia can cause an increased risk of heat stroke. Too cold and I am stiff, unable to warm up and I feel like I am going to break. It’s miserable.

Before going out, I check the weather again. Temperature changes can feel drastic, even just a few degrees. Layering clothing is ideal, and an extra jacket in the car is a great option. I keep a blanket in my car for emergencies.

It’s also handy to use when packing and traveling – are they having a hot or cold streak? What is the normal temperature? This way I can plan accordingly, with layers, for the different weather.

Other free apps I enjoy:

  • Facebook
  • Gmail
  • My bank app
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Craigslist
  • Yelp
  • Quora

Apps to look into while I wait somewhere (on my to-do list):

  • Toilet Finder App for IBS
  • Uber (if they ever legalize it here) for days I can’t drive, rather than stay home
  • Health apps to better track medical information, medication info (past and current), food log, exercise log, pain log, tests, results, blood work, etc. I suspect I will need multiple apps for what I want.
    • This might be an app worth paying for. And I hate paying for apps!
  • Better apps for Canadians (coupons, shopping etc.)
  • Online support apps for fibromyalgia, depression or anxiety

What technology do you use to help manage the day-to-day?

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: February 8, 2017
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