The last few years have been years of very positive changes in my life and my journey with fibromyalgia symptoms. I’ve gone from so fatigued and in pain that I could barely do anything but lay on the couch and watch TV to going back to school full-time, while establishing a new career in freelance writing. But, all these positive changes weren’t just physical. In fact, they didn’t even start with physical changes (like the diet changes and exercise) they started with mental changes. They started with changing my mind, with changing my thoughts.
With fibromyalgia pain, it’s easy to become bogged down by negative thinking. Constantly not feeling well day in and day out can no doubt take it’s toll on you. But there is hope! A few mental shifts can make a big difference in how you view and see your situation. Here’s what worked for me:
Mental Shifts that Helped Me Manage Fibromyalgia Symptoms
1. “I can’t do it,” had to become “I can do anything!”
It’s amazing how often we tell ourselves that we can’t do something. It’s the number one excuse to avoid trying something new. How did I get to a point in my life where I felt it wasn’t worth trying? I was never that person when I was younger. Back then, I believed I could do anything. The truth is that I still can. I just have to remember.
For example, when it was first suggested to me that I try changing my diet, my thoughts were full of “I can’t do it.” When someone would suggest going gluten-free to manage chronic pain and other symptoms, I knew I couldn’t do it. It seemed too hard. But the truth was that I could and I did make the switch in my diet. The truth is that most of the time when we tell ourselves we can’t do something, it’s more of a case that we don’t want to do it, or we aren’t ready to try it, as opposed to an actual fact that we can’t. It’s just so much easier to say that we can’t than to admit we have control.
2. “That person who did it before me was just a special case; they were different,” had to become “If they can do it, so can I!”
If someone else can do it then why can’t I do it? When I looked at others accomplishing their goals I could easily find some reason why they were special. Why they could do it, but I still couldn’t. Their situation was different, wasn’t it? They didn’t have the same responsibilities, or they didn’t hurt as much, or they slept better. The truth is that all of those thoughts are just excuses that we use to avoid admitting that we can do it if we choose to.
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3. “I can’t get by without______,” had to become “I don’t really want _____ anyway.”
Bread, pasta, cheese…omg cheese! These are all things that I didn’t think I could get by without having in my diet. How can anyone really live if they can’t eat whatever food they choose to? But as fibromyalgia patients, the truth is that we can get by without a lot of things, when we realize that what we are gaining is worth so much more. It’s amazing how much of food cravings are just all in our heads and we can break them if we choose to do so.
4. “Health is supposed to be easy,” had to become “The best health requires a little work.”
We all want the easy way out. We want the magic pill or fibromyalgia treatment. We don’t want to exercise and eat right. Why would we when the alternative is to relax as much as possible and eat whatever whenever we want! But health doesn’t work that way. Health takes work — at least good health does. Health takes reading labels. Health requires exercise (even if it’s just stretching before getting out of bed). Health takes eating healthy. Health may need supplements. Health requires being picky about what you do with your time and who you spend it with. Health takes work.
5. “I can do it later,” had to become “Now is the best time to get it done.”
I used to be a massive procrastinator: Why put off till tomorrow what I can put off till next week! But as I’ve learned to make better choices for my health I’ve learned that time management is one of the best ways to manage stress and anxiety. Getting it done today means not having to worry about doing it tomorrow. It means not having to stress, and when it comes to making better choices about our health or recovery from fibromyalgia, making those choices today means that you have better health a lot sooner.
What thoughts have you had to learn to change in order to take control of your health? In order to reduce stress?
This article, originally published on October 18, 2015, was updated on January 24, 2020.
Julie Ryan, a regular contributor to ProHealth, is a fellow fibromyalgia warrior, freelance writer, and blogger. In addition to fibromyalgia, Julie is currently diagnosed with endometriosis, migraines, cluster headaches, and hypothyroidism. She shares her journey, along with inspiration, and information on her blog at Counting My Spoons.