Mediating Anxiety Symptoms In Fibromyalgia
Do you have ongoing and chronic anxiety symptoms due to the complexities of living with fibromyalgia?
With over-stimulation due to stressors, noise, lights, environmental toxins, it’s no wonder that fibromyalgia can bring with it increased alertness that leads to anxiety.
Symptoms of anxiety include rapid pulse, chest or head pain, sweating, temperature intolerances, increased adrenaline, insomnia, brain fog, higher than normal cortisol levels, gastrointestinal upset and more.
With fibromyalgia, this could also lead to flares and an increase in severity of symptoms. I believe that anxiety is often mistreated because of underlying issues and stimulation factors that are overlooked.
It is even mistaken because of another reason. You likely know this, but in the older days, we used the word “anxious” to describe excitement. It might be good, bad, or indifferent; your body cannot always tell the difference.
On our “Mindbody Science” page, I explain the body’s natural pain response. I’ll repeat it here for clarity.
The pain signal is first processed by the Brain Stem (our Fight or Flight Center) that connects directly to the nerves of the spinal cord. It creates the involuntary withdrawal from the pain source.
The pain signal is next processed by the Limbic Brain (the seat of our emotions) which may add an emotional quality to the response. This is particularly true in the case of unrelenting chronic pain.
Finally, our Frontal Cortex begins subconsciously planning how to minimize the pain usually by initiating an “alert” state.
It’s intended to prevent us from repeatedly touching a hot stove for instance; however, when pain is chronic (the same as repeatedly touching that hot stove) as with fibromyalgia, that alertness becomes hyper-alertness and leads to anxiety.
Many people today are looking for a quick fix to get their anxiety and stress levels under control. The problem is that the quick fix is often in a medication that can easily add to the list of side effects.
And then, if that initial medication is not working, they might want to up the dosage or add another drug to ‘help out’ the first drug. That makes no sense at all, really.
We can too easily become dependent on food, recreational drugs, alcohol, shopping, or some other addiction to “calm” the anxiety.
In my case, although I never took drugs for anxiety (and believe me, there were times I really wanted to) I did go through a phase when I was over utilizing massage therapy to help me relax. Sounds like a good alternative UNTIL I realized I could not afford to do that on a regular basis.
Let me tell you, when we discover that balance between STILLNESS and MOVEMENT, we have discovered a true gift. Oh, and as I often say, protect your subconscious. That is what we do here.
Solutions to Fibromyalgia Related Anxiety Symptoms
Many studies have been done on the use of both effective exercise and meditation to control anxiety and stress. Getting out of our ‘comfort zone’ can be one of the best stress relievers ever.
You wouldn’t think so in the moment, but studies also show that people who work at home are more prone to disease. I believe this goes for anxiety and fibromyalgia as well.
Social anxiety disorder is very common in people with fibromyalgia. Feeling different or “defective” in any way can lower self esteem. It is very important what we do during our “alone time”. It has been shown that excessive TV watching can decrease self esteem and lead to more social anxiety.
Therefore utilizing the tools below and in the summary protocol can be effective in controlling social anxiety. Although it is important to understand that throwing oneself into a group situation in order to deal with anxiety “head on” is not always a good option and can ultimately lead to more withdrawal if tools are not implemented consistently.
Below is a CD for anxiety symptoms (from Health Journeys) that may be very beneficial.
Essential Tools for Relieving Anxiety Symptoms
Movement and structured exercise are still the most effective, non-invasive Rx’s for anxiety. Remember that you don’t have to “bite off more than you can chew” in terms of exercise.
The point is to start. Anxiety symptoms may not decrease immediately. We have to be consistent. Endorphins will also increase as greater levels of conditioning are attained. (Refer to my Sitemap)
Meditation/Prayer is FREE and can be done at any time. In my protocol I suggest meditating for 40 minutes per day; that is 20 minutes, 2X per day, once in the morning, and then later afternoon or evening.
I believe we can all find 20-40 minutes. I also highly suggest reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, for effective ways to stay in the moment. This book is listed on my Resources page and is an excellent resource for mind body health. It has given me great insight and clarity about the connection between the pain body in fibromyalgia and mind body work.
Deep breathing is also an essential tool to relieving anxiety. There are many techniques to breathing, the key is to find and practice what works best for you. I like to take about 10 minutes for intentional breathing; breathe in and hold for a few seconds, then really exaggerate on the “out” breath and focus on letting go of anxiety, stress and negativity.
Also, breathing in and out through the nostrils is great for balancing the adrenal glands. Or, alternate with mouth breathing and nostril breathing in the same session.
Effective Exercise for Stress/Anxiety
If you follow here in the website, or on either of my two facebook pages, you know that I often talk about safe and effective exercise. This is well verified for increasing our quality of life and decreasing overall symptoms in fibromyalgia. The key is that it must be done properly.
Some natural Rx’s that can help to take the edge off while being proactive in reducing anxiety symptoms include:
GABA, Theanine, Passionflower, Valerian, the Vitamin B complex, and a variety of adaptogens such as Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Ginseng, etc. It is also important to note that 5-HTP can increase anxiety in some people and melatonin is not always acceptable for people who have auto immune conditions on top of having fibro.
Can I tell you something? Supplements can be great, but they won’t do much if we don’t use the other tools, if we don’t find that balance between stillness and movement that the body needs to function properly.
Proper sleep is essential as well and I often refer to it as the number one tool, yet those of us with fibromyalgia know all too well how lack of sleep can really set off symptoms.
Anxiety is intensified in an already vulnerable person who is not getting REM sleep.
Cortisol levels are higher and reaction times are greatly decreased when quality sleep is not attained.
Genesis Today Magnolia bark For rest and relaxation. Helps to lower and balance cortisol which is often abnormal in those of us with chronic illness or any auto immune illness where the body is in a constant fight or flight mode. Safe and natural.
Using a weighted blanket has been shown to reduce anxiety and balance the nervous system. Don’t get the wrong idea, his doesn’t have to feel heavy to be effective. Read more here about using a weighted blanket for anxiety and helping you to get more restorative sleep with fibromyalgia.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Anxiety Symptoms
If you have the co-condition MCS, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, you may have symptoms when you are exposed to toxins of any kind. For many of us it is the immediate area around us.
People wearing fragrances, cleaning chemicals being used, or air fresheners (which do nothing to “clean” the air, they only make it more toxic due to synthetic fragrance. This is the deception of the industry. Fragrance does not clean.
Soap and detergents can lead to pain and migraines.
Many of us with Fibromyalgia have interrupted sleep patterns and therefore this tool is often easier said than done. See my “Body Clock” page on sleep help. Many recent studies have shown that 7 to 9 hours of sleep are required for good health and reduced anxiety symptoms.
Also, there are several studies that indicate that more than 9 hours can be detrimental, but I disagree because if you are getting good restorative sleep for 9-10 hours, then that is what your body needs, and I believe it can vary.
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