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My Pro-Tips for Planning My Days and Managing the Unexpected With Fibromyalgia

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What a difference a day makes. This is my mantra every single day as a fibromyalgia warrior. I find mornings difficult and must motivate myself even on the best of days. I was never an early bird, but fibro has put to rest any idea that I would miraculously become one.

Lack of a good night’s sleep due to drowsiness from sleeping pills makes me more tired than usual. Some mornings, there is a feeling like a chisel bisecting my head, my body has been run over by a lorry, and I have caught the deadliest flu. My joints ache, my muscles are sore and spasm, my hands shake, my skin hurts to be touched, my body feels like it is covered with creepy crawlies and is being used as a pin cushion, my facial spasms affect my ability to see straight. I am more tired than I knew was humanly possible, and I cannot think straight to save my life. What’s my name? Then the panic sets in. I am in the middle of a dreaded fibro flare. And I am alone with a full calendar and a to-do list which grows longer as I sleep.

Since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia over two years ago, I have become better at managing the unexpected. I wish someone had suggested half of these things to me. So, I hope this helps even one person out there in our great community.

I keep everything I need for these mornings in my nightstand, but frankly, rolling over to reach the nightstand can require a pep talk. There are my daily medications already counted out and emergency painkillers along with a glass of water. My phone is at hand so that I can cancel appointments, message friends to walk the dog, and play some happy music. I also have some stick-on heating pads, the control to my heated mattress pad, my reflexology tool for working trigger points, and a comfy set of clothes which I can sleep in (perfect to roll out of bed for that unexpected delivery).

My husband thinks that I am a bit obsessive over these things, but each evening I prepare for the next day. My medications and supplements counted and laid out, the breakfast dishes set, the dishwasher run, and the laundry rumbling away while I sleep. I create my to-do list for the next day because, let’s face it, I will forget it if I do not write it down. Anything I can prepare in advance when I am feeling well I do, because you never know what tomorrow will bring with fibro.

And that forgetfulness is made leagues worse by pain or lack of sleep. It is mind-boggling to others, but I cannot even remember which medications or coping strategies help me when I am in the midst of a bad flare. So, I have a notebook with a checklist of all my tips. In there, I also have quotes that calm and motivate me during these moments when all I truly feel like doing is curling up under the duvet and alternating between crying and cursing my fate.

I never schedule appointments for the morning unless absolutely necessary because I know I am more likely to cancel those than one later in the day. I rarely rush or leave things to the last minute. If I stress, my fibro is likely to flare up. Plus, I never know what the day will bring that will require extra time: time for pain medication to kick in, for a second-round of pain medication to kick in, to work on muscle spasms, or to get over some random nausea.

I am a ruthless “prioritizer,” resurrecting tips I had not used since I worked in management. If something does not fall into the truly “important” category, then it is not a priority unless I have some extra energy. I was always vehemently against procrastinating, but I have learned that on bad days, it is better to re-prioritize than to make myself feel worse and do a half-good job.

For me, just getting moving helps my fibro, but that is the hardest step and can feel terribly overwhelming. On those days, I throw everything into my corner to motivate myself. I set myself a small goal like getting into my clothes. Then, getting up to make a cup of tea. If that goes well, then I set myself another goal, such as making my favorite breakfast or taking a hot shower. I will also turn on my sunlight lamp on dark days, make myself a strong cappuccino, and take the time to cuddle my dog. On those panic-inducing days, I find it best to set lots of little goals rather than get overwhelmed about the day and feel unable to get started at all.

In my previous life as a project manager, I would berate my team for not planning for the unexpected. What are your plans A, B, and C? Where is the extra time for those tasks with a high-probability of not going to plan? If you know that half of your days usually do not go according to plan, then plan for that. Make your life more flexible, less stressful, and less guilt-ridden (from not keeping commitments to yourself and others).

I think the hardest part is being honest with yourself and others that this is the way you roll from here on out with fibro, and it is through no fault of your own. So I encourage you to plan on, fibro warrior, and don’t be afraid when your body gets in the way.

Originally published: January 11, 2020
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