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Experience Far-Reaching Benefits Beyond Your Fibromyalgia Limitations

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Have your physical limitations from fibromyalgia and other health challenges ever left you feeling inadequate, less than whole, or maybe even useless?

Have you ever felt that your struggle to deal with the daily challenges of fibromyalgia leaves you emptied out and lonely?

One serious risk factor from fibromyalgia
is isolation and it’s damaging effects.

When we feel isolated, we’re at the mercy of our own thoughts. We have no other feedback than our own feelings, experiences, and existence. It limits our view of our own world and of the world outside our homes.

And then there’s the physical effects of isolation. When we have little or no communication with the outside world, we tend to withdraw into ourselves and focus on our limitations. This environment does not foster the likelihood of learning and trying new things such as treatments and fitness programs. Moving less can lead to a downward health spiral. It becomes a worn rut that seems unavoidable.

Would you like to learn of a way out of this rut? How would you like to improve your social life, your emotional health, AND your physical health? Oh, and what if I mentioned that it’s free, fun, and available to you no matter your limitations?

First, I’ll tell you a quick story.

Even now, several years later, my hubby still fondly reminisces about a trip he took to New Orleans with a bunch of buddies. They shared a love of not-so-healthy foods eating at a local rib shack so decrepit they couldn’t believe it had an operational food service license. They slept in dorm-style barracks and still tease each other mercilessly about who snored the loudest. My hubby came back from that trip so stiff and sore that it took weeks for him to be able to stand up straight (and, no, he doesn’t have fibromyalgia).

Was he on a fun romp with a bunch of cronies?

Nope. He was on a Habitat for Humanity trip building homes in the area of destruction following Hurricane Katrina. He swung a hammer morning, noon, and night for days on end.

He’d be the first to tell you it was one of the greatest trips he’s ever taken.

Can volunteering be fun?
The answer is yes, and so much more.

It may seem counter-intuitive for those with physical limitations and/or disabilities to volunteer, but the benefits are worth personal investigation.

You may feel it’s pretty tough to “give back” when you perceive you have nothing to give in the first place. It would seem impossible to volunteer when dealing with pain, fatigue, and other health challenges. But studies have proven surprising benefits on these topics.

Here’s a quote from HelpGuide.org, “Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.”

And, there’s much more.

Volunteering can benefit the participant in the following areas:

  • Increases the feeling of connection with others (alleviates isolation)

  • Increases self-confidence

  • Creates new friendships

  • Creates opportunities to practice social skills

  • Combats depression

  • Can enhance the participant’s technical skills

  • Can provide the participant with new job skills

  • Improves physical health

  • Improves emotional health

  • Increases overall sense of happiness and life satisfaction.

Studies have demonstrated that helping others even kindles happiness. Here’s what HelpGuide.org goes on to say about the happiness effect. “When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine.”

And, what about those who are disabled? “Whether due to a lack of transportation, time constraints, a disability or other reasons, many people prefer to volunteer via phone or computer. There are many projects where you can help.

The “Doing Good is Good For You Study” categorizes the healing benefits of volunteering in these four specific areas:

  1. Health
  2. Stress
  3. Purpose
  4. Engagement

These statistics and findings definitely come as no surprise. I have two friends (in separate states) who are battling cancer. They both happen to volunteer for local live theater companies in their areas. They enjoy the camaraderie, the buzz of energy from live theater, as well as the excitement of new and interesting productions. And, they both feel that these benefits have helped them to stay positive and focused through their cancer treatments. They volunteered as they could, each within their own abilities and health parameters. They both say the benefits of their volunteer opportunities have far exceeded their expectations.

Would you like to learn more about volunteering? If you’re unsure where to begin, here’s how you can start. Write down your personal interests. List your hobbies, leisure activities, and your favorite pastimes. Review the following suggestions to help get your creative juices started.

Teaching Reading Writing Organization
Drama / Arts Music Dance Sewing
Crafts Painting Home Maintenance Computer Graphics
Technical Skills Environment or
Sports Animal Care / Rescue
Religious Instruction Caring for Infants Instructing Children,
Teens or Young Adults
Geriatric Support & Care
Health Advocacy Human Rights Local Government and much more…

Now, with your interests in mind, seek out organizations that can best use your skills. Look to churches, synagogues and religious organizations (whether or not you specifically belong to them), chronic illness organizations, schools, community centers, hospitals, convalescent centers, libraries, soup kitchens, homeless and domestic violence shelters, children’s day camps, Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations, the Goodwill, the Salvation Army, the Special Olympics, the Red Cross, and more.

You can even go to sites such as VolunteerMatch.org to get hooked up to great volunteer opportunities that suit your personal interests.

Of course, don’t forget fibromyalgia awareness organizations such as the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association and your local fibromyalgia awareness support groups.

FInally, it doesn’t help to volunteer simply because you’re told that you’ll receive benefits from doing so. It’s important to do it from an altruistic standpoint. Whether or not volunteering appeals to you isn’t a reflection on your character. If, after learning all of these benefits, you feel volunteering isn’t for you … that’s okay. Knowing your personal limitations and interests is a good thing. But if fear is holding you back in any way, I’d like to encourage you to step outside your comfort zone. Step out in faith and reach out to others in need.

When you reach out, you never know
just how far that reach will go.


Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia writer for the ProHealth website community.

Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia, details her own journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness. She is also the creator of the FibroFrog™– a therapeutic stress-relieving tool which provides powerful healing benefits with fun and whimsy.

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