Sitting at a desk, standing at a register or performing other physical and mental requirements of a job when you have fibromyalgia aren’t always possible (and that’s OK). For those who are able to work while living with fibromyalgia, getting through a work day filled with brain fog, pain and fatigue can feel like a monumental task.
We asked our Mighty community with fibromyalgia what advice they would give to others who work while managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia. The most important take-away as you gear up for another work day: It’s OK to do what’s best for you and your health.
Here’s what they community told us:
1. “Don’t hold back your emotions regarding how your fibro is affecting you. Cry if you need to. Be open with yourself and others. The pain/symptoms you experience on a day-to-day basis are awful and beyond difficult to deal with. You’re going to have feelings about it. Just don’t be embarrassed or afraid to take off the ‘I’m fine’ mask for a while and let it all out.”
2. “If your job is causing you too much stress, it will make you much worse. Reduce stress in any way possible. Learn when to say no and when to ask for help. I started working freelance so I could make my own schedule and limit stress. Working from home allows me to save my energy on doing other things.”
3. “Number one advice is find a job that won’t drain you. Do something you love and be in a positive environment. I’ve noticed when I’m around certain people at work it feels toxic. Other days when I’m with different people they get my mind off the pain for a bit and it helps me get through the day.”
4. “I only work part time, and it’s taken several years to build up to it. My suggestion is to take things one step at a time. I tried to come back to work full time as soon as I found medicine that helped, and I ended up having the worst crash to date and had to quit that job after only a week. Take it slow, and do what you can.”
5. “Biggest thing that helps me is taking a nap on my lunch break daily! I carry a pillow and blanket in my car and sleep in the back seat… Crack a window during hot weather and enjoy the sound of the rain in the winter, but take time when you can to really relax!”
6. “Most people are not jerks — they are kind and understanding if you talk to them before things go south. The best thing I ever did for myself was explain to the people my illness most affects (which includes my boss and professors) what I am living with.”
7. “Do not push your body to do things just to please your colleagues. Feel your body, listen to what it says… when it says stop, you owe it to yourself to stop.”
8. “Self-care is vital in maintaining ability to work and function. It’s not only what you do at work but also off work. Get plenty of rest and have good positive people around you. Our mind, body and spirit are all connected. Nurture all three and it brings the balance that’s needed to thrive.”
9. “It doesn’t work for everyone, but I find a positive mindset and planning ahead are the best ways to cope! ‘I can do this!’ works wonders on an already difficult task, telling yourself you can’t do it is only going to make it harder (this doesn’t apply to things outside of your limits though — don’t do anything that’ll hurt you more if you can avoid it!) and planning some time to recover throughout the week is absolutely vital.”
10. “I keep a heating pad, heated fingerless gloves, and an electric blanket under my desk to help me get through the day. Make sure you get up and move around every so often too, or you [could] get too stiff.”
11. “I work full time M-F, up at 5 a.m. home at 6:30 p.m. The only way I manage is consistency. Bed at the same time Sunday through Friday. Relax Saturday. Light chores and preparing on Sunday… Biggest advice is pay attention to what affects your body, pace yourself and be consistent.”
12. “Don’t forget to ask for help when you need it, and saying no isn’t a bad thing.”
13. “Find work that gives you satisfaction. Whether that is serving people, being a cashier, or physical work – the important thing is to look for the satisfaction of a job well done. I find that satisfaction does help counteract the pain and fatigue that we all feel at the end of the day.”
14. “Don’t feel bad if you can’t work because of your illness. You’re not a loser. You are not lazy. You are sick… a huge difference!”
What advice would you give for working with fibromyalgia? Share in the comments below.