Fibromyalgia flares can flourish into a raging flame or fade into a minor fizzle. They can also fluctuate to many levels in between. But what makes them go one way or the other?
And, is there a way to predict how far a flare will go?
The honest reply is, “sort of.”
It’s important to first understand some fundamental factors regarding symptom flares. To learn more, check out this article, “What’s the Hidden Cause Behind YOUR Fibromyalgia Flares?”
That article mentions, “What differs for each of us is the cause, the duration, and the intensity of our flares.” So, what IS behind the duration and intensity of your fibromyalgia flares?
The explanation to that lies in what I call, the “fester factor.”
Symptom flares are a result of several factors that combine both physical as well as emotional concerns. Physical issues are easier to evaluate. The flare may follow something obvious such as a fall, an injury, or an infection. Of course, the bigger the physical impact or injury, the more likely it is that a significant flare will follow.
Here’s how the “fester factor” applies to emotional concerns.
First of all, what emotions, specifically, can multiply (fester) and add fuel to a flare? Review the following list. This is just a short list to get you started. Do you identify with any of the emotions? If so, consider whether that emotion is something you felt in the past or if it’s a current occurrence. Additionally, if it’s something you’re experiencing now, consider if it’s been an issue for four weeks or more.
|EMOTION or FEELING||PAST CONCERN||CURRENT CONCERN||4 WEEKS or MORE|
|Feelings of Persecution|
|Feelings of Inadequacy|
|Feelings of Being Overlooked|
Notice that most, if not all, of the emotions on this list are something that we’ve all likely felt at one time or another. It’s not uncommon to feel frustrated and angry at a family circumstance that feels unfair. It’s not unusual to feel overlooked or undervalued when passed up for a promotion at work.
There’s no “wrong” answer for evaluating what emotions you feel and when. The reason for this exercise is to shine a spotlight on the potential for any particular emotion to become habitual or chronic. In other words, when a negative emotion hangs around for a prolonged period of time, it has the opportunity to fester.
Do any of the above emotions pose a chronic concern for you?
I’ve heard people say, “I’m just a worrier. That’s who I am.” My question back would be, “But is that who you want to be?”
We do have the option to choose our emotions.
We may experience negative knee-jerk or “in the moment” emotions, but when we have a chance to reflect, we can make intentional choices to shift our thoughts toward the positive. This becomes all the more important when we consider the impact of our emotions on our health.
Chronic negative emotions can wear us down in more ways than you may think. Under negativity, we become less able to adapt to change. We become less able to fight off colds, flu, and infections. And, we become less able to bounce back from an injury or other physical issue.
Therefore, symptom flares last longer when chronic emotional concerns are present. With this in mind, can we actually curb a flare?
I think so.
First, pay attention to the thoughts that linger. If they tend more toward the negative side than the positive – take action. Figure out what’s lacking the most. Is it support, connection, validation, feeling heard, or feeling trapped in your circumstances? There are lots of things you can do to counteract negative emotions – from connecting with others to connecting with nature.
Is shifting toward positive emotions simple? No, but it’s definitely worth tackling this subject – even if it’s just a little bit at a time.
Second, here’s another important point I’d like you to consider. A flare is one way that your body has to get your attention. A flare makes you slow down, care for yourself, and get some rest. It’s your body’s way of saying, “Are you listening to me?”
What if you listened to your body’s signals and realized you needed to pace yourself before a flare happened?
It’s just a thought.
For now, do your best to listen to what your body needs. Take advantage of what you’ve learned from past flares. Take the necessary steps to limit or minimize your next one.
Breathe deeply. Drink water. Practice relaxation activities such as restorative yoga, stretching, and tai chi. Pray and/or meditate.
Care for your body, mind, and spirit.
Make self-care a priority and you may be able to do even better than simply minimizing your next flare. You may be able to prevent it from happening in the first place!
As I’ve often said, don’t give your flare room to bloom.
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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