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5 Ways That I Reduce Stress During Tough Times

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By Julie Ryan

As we all know, stress can really aggravate fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses. Every now and again life presents us with big challenges that are unavoidably stressful.

My mom is fighting cancer at the moment, which of course has taken priority on my time and attention, and I'm still doing my best to keep up with everything else (work, writing, household, life). With all that in mind I've had to make some adjustments to make things work. Regardless of those adjustments, I'm finding that I'm more tired than usual, that I need to rest more, and that it's even more important for me to stick to my schedule.

There are a few other things that I've found are really important right now to help me maintain my sanity, decrease my stress, and increase my happiness.

  1. I have to take a step back and breathe. – When we first found out mom had cancer and I researched the type of cancer she had, I was getting beyond stressed at the "what could happen." Finally, a friend pointed out that it was time to stop Googling and start focusing on enjoying my mom. Whatever will happen is going to happen no matter how much I research. I already know that the care plan they have for her is the best available at the moment. So, that's the best I can ask for. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in a problem to really see it for what it is, and we need to step back.

  2. I need to take time to be grateful. – It would be easy to fall into a negative black hole right now and focus on the bad things, the misdiagnoses, the frustrations. But, what's the point in that? Where would it get me? Yes, I did take some time to experience the emotions that were there. I still do take that time, but I'm doing my best to focus on the positive and to be grateful for what is. When I fear that I might lose my mother, I have to remind myself that I have that fear because I have something to be grateful for. I am grateful for having such a wonderful mother that I would fear to lose. But, I have much to be thankful for. This is why I've started keeping a gratitude journal to remind myself that there is much positive in my life.

  3. I need to focus only on what I can control or change. – It's too easy to get sucked into worrying about things that I can't control or change. There's plenty of those things. But, there are plenty of things that I do have control over and that I can change as well. It's a lot less stressful if I choose to only focus on those things, and as I focus, to work on changing what can be changed – one step at a time. I only have so much energy; why am I wasting it on things I can't control

  4. I have to create healthy boundaries. – There's a part of me that wants to be by my mom's side every minute of the day. If I could get her to stay here with me, I'd be perfectly happy. But, I have to remember that she's an adult and needs her space. That said, I need my space, too. I need healthy space to be able to relax and not constantly be focused on her illness. This means that when she is around, I've got to remember to keep things "normal" and not focus or let her stay focused on her illness.

  5. I need to focus on this present moment – Fear makes me focus on what might happen, when my focus should be on what is happening right now. When I can really be in the moment I can see so much more clearly. I can make the right decisions for the right reasons. I can show love to those around me, I can be present with those around me.

I believe it's important that we do our best to learn from everything that we go through. That's why we go through hardships, that's the purpose of life – to keep learning, to grow, then to pass on what we've learned and help others. When I can focus on this moment, on what I can control, I can be more grateful for what is, I can have healthy boundaries, and I can learn more from those around me about what life has to offer me.

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 Hypothyroid. She shares her journey, along with inspiration, and information on her blog at

You can follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

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