Bad or flare days can crop up for a multitude of reasons when living with fibro – over exertion leading to a flare, sleep that’s even worse than normal, a period of stress, a Covid booster jab (writing from personal experience here!), hormones – to cite just a few examples. Bad days may leave us unable to do things we’d do in a normal day, whatever that looks like for us. So, it can help to have a few strategies up our sleeve to help get us through those darker days – here are some ideas which might help.
1 – Prepare a “Bad Day Box”
I keep a bad day box that I can access easily when things take a downward turn and I know that many other spoonies do this too. Bad day boxes often contain items which you find comforting or helpful when you’re having a rough day. Think along the lines of tasty snacks, a heat pack, an uplifting book, a scented candle or room spray – basically any item that you’d like to turn to when the need arises. Keep the box solely for these bad days, so that it retains its special feel.
2 – Make use of Music or Audiobooks
When pain levels are high, even holding a book might be out of the question. We may not be able to concentrate on a wall of text or even comprehend the written word when fibro fog strikes. This is where listening to calming music or an audio book can help as it gives the mind something to focus on, whilst allowing the body to relax. It can also serve to take your mind off the pain and even help you to drift off to sleep, without having to make too much effort.
3 – Nap if you Need to
Yes I know that napping is often frowned upon in the medical world1 2. But for me, if I’m having a bad day and I want to nap, then I will do so! I usually feel much brighter afterwards and my sleep is generally so poor anyway that I know, from tracking my symptoms over a long period of time, that napping has no detrimental impact whatsoever. Occasionally a daytime nap can even be enough to turn a bad day into an OK one where I can actually manage to function on some level and so is worth doing if the day isn’t going so well.
4 – Eat and Drink Sensibly
This can be really hard if you’re having a bad day, plagued by fatigue and pain. I tend to batch cook meals like curries on better days so that all I have to do is walk to the freezer, get something out to and heat it up to eat.
I also make use of my trusty flask and fill it with tea or coffee so that I don’t have to keep getting up to make drinks throughout the day which can easily deplete scarce energy resources.
5 – Take a Warm Bath
The benefits of taking a warm bath are many, but most relevant to a fibromyalgia bad day is the fact that being in warm water can help lessen inflammation and pain. Add in a few drops of lavender essential oil and you’ll have the added benefit of feeling more calm and relaxed.
In addition, taking a warm bath at night can help us to get a better night’s rest. Warm baths increase our body temperature, so when we get out of the bath, we cool down rapidly which signals to the body to make more melatonin. This, in turn, helps us to wind down in preparation for sleep.
6 – Exercise if you’re able to
Even if it’s just a 5 minute walk outside, a few stretches or some gentle yoga, a little movement can work wonders for pain levels and stop you from feeling so stiff. It can take a while to find exercise that is right for you, but it’s worth looking around and persevering if you can’t find something that suits straight away.
When my lock-down online yoga classes reverted to being in person, I was no longer able to attend, but have recently discovered Jane Adams’ yoga on Amazon Prime. These are short and gentle routines that are pitched at at level that I find challenging but not painful, and so I am able to do these most days.
Remember, it’s perfectly OK and normal to have bad days with fibromyalgia as it’s a condition that waxes and wanes. So with that in mind, prioritise and be kind to yourself, take what you need and fill your day with whatever nourishes and comforts you. Bring to mind the proverb “This too shall pass”, tomorrow will be a brighter day.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2022 UK Fibromyalgia Magazine