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Fibromyalgia and Fatigue: Practical Coping Tips

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By Rosalie Devonshire, MSW, LCSW, and Julie Kelly, MS, RN

The following is an excerpt (edited for length) from the new book (completely revised and updated 2005 edition) “Taking Charge of Fibromyalgia – Everything You Need to Know to Manage Fibromyalgia” written by two health professionals who live successfully with FM.

The following tips are additional ways of coping that we’ve found to be helpful. Try some and see if they’re helpful for you, too.


Fatigue can be one of the most debilitating and frustrating symptoms for FMS patients. The fatigue you are experiencing is most likely different from any fatigue you have experienced before and may be overwhelming. Some people describe this fatigue as being similar to experiencing constant jet lag.

The levels of fatigue patients experience can range from mild to severe. Some people have enough energy to lead a fairly normal life, and others have a great deal of difficulty getting out of bed. Some find they are energetic for a few hours during the day and then a few feel they have “hit the wall” with their fatigue and can go no further. It definitely can be frustrating. Not knowing when the fatigue will strike is stressful, and makes it difficult to plan your daily activities. It is reassuring to know that as your symptoms improve, your fatigue levels should improve as well.

Tips for Coping with Fatigue

Helps to reduce fatigue and pain.


–Speak to your physician about medication to get a good night’s rest. Lack of sleep is the major contributor to feeling fatigued. Waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day is important.

–Use schedules, lists, and calendars. These are also useful for coping with memory problems. You can purchase planners and calendars that will fit in a purse or can be left by a desk. Please do not try to fit too many activities into one day. A “to do” list is great for keeping you reminded of what you need to do each day, but be realistic about the number of items on your list. Cross off each “done” item and see how much you’ve accomplished!

–Plan for a rest period each day. Schedule a longer period of time during the week, and afternoon or even a day if possible, when you can relax and take care of yourself. This is particularly important to have planned into your schedule after you have a busy series of events.

–Plan to do an activity that you enjoy each day. We all feel less fatigued when participating in an activity we like doing.

–Organize your home so things are within easy reach for you. You shouldn’t have to do any unnecessary reaching for items stacked in high cabinets or spend extra time sorting through cluttered closets and drawers. It may take some time to get organized, but it will be worth the effort.

–Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can result in fatigue.

–Are you eating well-balanced meals? Lack of proper nutrition robs us of energy. Eating smaller meals, evenly spaced throughout the day, will help keep blood sugar levels controlled. [There is a “Diet and Nutritional Supplements” chapter in this book with additional information.]

–Exercise. If you do not overdo, exercise can increase your endurance and boost your energy level. [Refer to exercise chapter in this book for help with planning an exercise program.]

–Plan activities so you alternate a restful or an uplifting activity with a strenuous one. For example, do not vacuum and scrub floors in the same day. Vacuum, then write letters or pay bills. Scrub floors another day.

–Avoid errands or shopping during busy traffic hours. You will feel less stressed. Shopping during off hours will allow you to spend less time standing in long lines and will save your energy.


–Pacing is a challenge. It seems we all want to do everything during those times when we feel better, but then feel exhausted from overdoing and sending ourselves into a flare-up! Be realistic about the goals and activities you set for yourself.

–Take frequent short rest breaks during the day. Stretch, take deep breaths, or just close your eyes and listen to soothing music.

–Use a relaxation tape when you feel most fatigued. You may be amazed at how refreshed you feel afterwards. You might even feel better than if you had taken a nap!

–Try to do your heavy or difficult tasks when you know you will have more energy.

–Listen to your body. Rest before you get overtired. Sometimes this is difficult for FMS patients; we are tired all the time and do not realize when we have overdone it, until it’s too late.


–Take care of the important things first. Your stress load might be reduced if you do the tasks you really dislike doing first. This will save you worry time, which will alleviate some fatigue caused by worry!

–Decide which activities you do not need to do. Which ones can you postpone? Sometimes we do things that might be better left undone.

–Ask other people to help you with tasks you find difficult.

–Learn to say no. Many of us are overcommitted. Weigh what you have to do against what you want to do.

–Make yourself and your health priorities.

The preceding is an excerpt, reprinted with permission, from “Taking Charge of Fibromyalgia – Everything You Need to Know to Manage Fibromyalgia” by Rosalie Devonshire, MSW, LCSW, and Julie Kelly, MS, RN. You can purchase this book through Amazon.com or order it from your local bookstore. To purchase through Amazon, click on the following link: https://www.immunesupport.com/shop/Books.cfm

© 2005 Rosalie Devonshire and Julie Kelly. All rights reserved.

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