Stress is the enemy when you have fibromyalgia (FMS) or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Most people with these illnesses agree that stress makes symptoms worse, sometimes even triggering debilitating flares.
Some doctors believe that FMS and ME/CFS may be the end result of chronic stress, or that stress contributes significantly to their onset. Research suggests dysregulation in our stress systems (HPA axis) and abnormal levels of the stress hormone cortisol. We're especially likely to deal with the overlapping conditions of anxiety and depression, which can be triggered or worsened by stress.
It's not possible to get rid of all the stress in our lives, but you can cut down on your stress levels and learn to deal better with the stress you can't eliminate.
About.com Stress Management Guide Elizabeth Scott is a wellness coach and health educator with degrees in psychology and counseling. Since 2005, she's been creating resources that can help you recognize and manage stress in your life, which may help you alleviate symptoms and avoid debilitating flares. Because our illnesses tend to attract disbelief and unwanted advice, and also can damage relationships, you may benefit from her articles on dealing with people and relationships.
We may not always realize it when we're feeling stressed. You need to learn to recognize it before you can manage it. If you're looking at things with a distorted view, called cognitive distortion, it could be creating more stress in your life.
Health Effects of Stress
Stress can do a lot more than elevate your FMS or ME/CFS symptoms. Knowing the vast effect stress can have on your health can provide extra motivation for better stress management.
Coping With Stress
Dealing with stress takes more than simply saying, "I'm not going to worry about it anymore." Find new ways to manage the stress in your life, and also see how effective time management can alleviate stress.
When money is tight, stress is generally high. When you have FMS or ME/CFS, the cost of treatments or lost wages if you can't work like you used to can contribute to serious financial problems. Here's help for dealing with those issues:
Stress & Relationships
Relationships are rarely without any conflict, and chronic illness can cause a whole new set of problems. In the articles below, you can learn how to better deal with conflict, avoid conflict, and deal with especially stressful people.
Sometimes, relationships have to end -– and that brings its own kind of stress. Find out how to deal with that and also loneliness, which can be a part of living with a chronic illness.
Being a parent is never easy, and it can be especially difficult when you have a chronic illness. Learn about the risk of depression when parents are under stress and what can lead to it.
Elizabeth has a host of resources on other stress-related topics that may help you. You'll find them all here:
Izquierdo-Alvarez S., et. al. BMC research notes. 2008 Dec 22;1:134. Is there an association between fibromyalgia and below-normal levels of urinary cortisol?
Nater UM, et al. Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism. 2008 Mar;93(3):703-9. Attenuated morning salivary cortisol concentrations in a population-based study of persons with chronic fatigue syndrome and well controls.
Vernon, S. Pharmacogenomics, April 2006; vol 7: pp 345-354. The challenge of integrating disparate high-content data: epidemiological, clinical and laboratory data collected during an in-hospital study of chronic fatigue syndrome.