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Reducing Stress in Fibromyalgia Syndrome

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 20 Aug 2012 |
Stress Depression Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Stress can trigger or worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome, so it’s important to try to reduce everyday stresses as much as possible, and to learn new coping strategies to deal with all forms of stress. For some people with a mild form of fibromyalgia syndrome, reducing stress may actually relive all the symptoms of the disorder.


Try to reduce stress at work. This may be through reducing hours or workload, getting more organised, making adjustments to desk and chair set-up, or just learning to say no when asked to take on extra tasks and responsibilities. Make sure that management and colleagues know all about the symptoms and limitations of the disorder – as fibromyalgia syndrome is an ‘invisible disease’, if people don’t know that there is a problem, it’s hard for them to understand and make allowances.


Much the same as at work, reducing stress at home can include getting more organised and reducing the workload by getting more help, either from family members or by employing a cleaner, even just for a couple of hours a week. Set realistic limits on what has to be done – for example, do all rooms really need dusting every week?


Family relationships can become difficult where one member has a chronic illness, and the resulting stress can worsen the symptoms, starting a vicious cycle. Learn to identify and predict the stress points within the family and deal with them before they get too severe. Keep communication channels open and make sure that everyone understands the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome and the effects that they have. It may be worth looking into family and relationship counselling if difficulties within the family are making symptoms much worse.


Depression can be common in fibromyalgia syndrome, and the feeling of depression can make fibromyalgia syndrome symptoms and therefore the stress associated with it far worse. Doctors can treat the symptoms of depression through drugs, counselling or a combination of the two.


Relaxing is very important for people with fibromyalgia syndrome. At work, try to take regular breaks, including lunch breaks, away from the desk, and spend these times resting if possible. Relaxing forms of exercise such as yoga or tai chi, a relaxing massage, or learning relaxation techniques such as meditation can help.

Cognitive Therapy

Counselling can be a good way to identify some of the stresses associated with fibromyalgia syndrome and find ways to deal with them. A course of cognitive therapy sessions can help people with fibromyalgia syndrome learn to cope with stress and develop coping strategies. This form of therapy particularly focuses on reducing negative thought patterns, and learning and setting limits.

Self-help groups can reduce stress in fibromyalgia syndrome by helping people see that they are not alone. They can also be a good place to provide mutual support for both patients and carers, and exchange hints and tips for reducing and coping with stress.


Because it releases natural endorphins, exercise and stretching helps with the symptoms of stress and depression, and can also help other symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome such as tiredness, and muscle pain and stiffness. Try gentle forms of exercising such as walking, swimming and yoga, and avoid getting too tired.

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