Photo of measuring tape with text overlay: Measuring Progress With Fibromyalgia

Measuring Progress With Fibromyalgia

Every year, at the end of the year, I sit down and spend a little time taking stock of the year I just finished. I always measure how I did with the goals I set. If I did a good job of establishing my goals, I’m able to see exactly how well (or poorly) I’ve done toward reaching them.

Measuring progress toward goals can be extremely simple. For financial goals we look at how much we saved or how much debt we paid off. For weight-loss goals we measure how many pounds we lost or how many clothing sizes we went down.

Measuring progress with fibromyalgia or another chronic illness is not so simple.

As anyone who has fibromyalgia knows, we can feel great one day and the next we feel as if we’ve been kicked by a horse. When our symptoms come and go at will and flares often come on suddenly and with a vengeance, it’s hard to feel as if we ever make any progress. It often seems we take one step forward and two steps back.

We may look at how we’re feeling on a particular day and feel as if we haven’t made any progress at all, but as I mentioned in Lessons From The Grandpa Tree,  with fibromyalgia, improvements aren’t linear. There will be times of growth, and there will be times when we’re just surviving, but when we look back we can see where we’ve actually made gains.

Rather than basing how we’re doing on how we feel on a particular day, we can look at the bigger picture of our lives.

Here are a few questions that can be helpful when we’re trying to assess how we’re doing:

  • Are there things I’m able to do now that I couldn’t do 6 months, a year, two years ago? Depending on where we start, it could be something as simple as being able to take a shower without needing to lie down afterward. Whatever you’re able to do, whether it’s something small or a major breakthrough for you, it’s a victory. Take the win and be proud of it!
  • How is my stamina most daysNotice that we’re talking most days here, not just the day we’re asking the question. Energy levels ebb and flow, and we’ll probably always experience those individual days of utter fatigue, but taking a look at our overall stamina can help us assess whether we’re making any gains in this department.
  • How am I doing with the things I can control, i.e.; diet, exercise, relaxation, etc.? We can’t control our illness; I think we all know that, but we can do things that contribute to our health and could impact how we feel overall. Our actions are actually easy to measure. Am I sticking to my eating plan? Am I doing my relaxation exercises? Am I getting my steps in?
  • How am I doing in other areas of my life? Sometimes we can forget that there’s more to our lives than the constant pain and fatigue, but taking stock of other dimensions of wellness can take the focus off our illness and help us realize how rich our lives really are.
  • How is my attitude? Attitude makes all the difference. We get to choose how we react to our illness. We can choose whether our attitude is negative or positive. When I talk about a positive attitude, I’m not talking about having pollyanna-ish, everything-is-great outlook; I’m talking about being realistic about our situation but maintaining a dynamic optimism – optimism based on action.

Living with fibromyalgia or another chronic illness can be discouraging, especially if we don’t feel we’re making any progress, so it’s helpful to have some ‘landmarks’ to help us see how we’re progressing in our journey.

How do you measure progress when it comes to your illness? Please share!




  1. I love these ideas for measuring how your illnesses are, its so easy to forget how much progress we have made in the past when we are always making future goals I am going to start implementing these thank you

    1. Thank you so much Beverley – I’m glad you found them useful! I know for me, having some way to assess how I’m doing helps, especially during times of the year (usually the cold months) when my symptoms seem to be at their worst. This year I’ve found that even on my worst days I’m able to do a little blog work and other administrative tasks, which is definitely an improvement for me. Wishing you a new year full of blessings!

  2. Admittedly, I’ve been putting off the whole ‘2018 review’ (despite recommending doing it on my own blog, but I’m a hypocrite!) and the thought of measuring these areas of your life the way you’ve suggested makes a lot of sense. This is really helpful, Terri! xx

    1. Thanks so much Caz! I’m glad you found it helpful. I almost always spend New Year’s Eve reviewing my goals (but these are concrete things like eat 5 servings of vegetables, do Yoga 3 times per week, save X-number of dollars, etc.) and progress toward them. It’s just my own personal issue, but I feel like I can’t start the new year “clean” if I don’t do that. As far as measuring how I’m doing with my Fibro, it usually ends up being more of an ‘aha’ moment when I realize I just did something I never would have attempted before, or when I need a boost because I’m feeling down about feeling so horrible at a particular moment.😊I hope your new year is off to a great start sweet friend! Hugs!

  3. A great list that’s food for thought Terri. I was able to answer some of those questions in the positive which means that year by year I am managing a bit better, while at times the old fibro problems still crop up. I found your blog post also helpful, thank you.

    1. Thanks so much! I’m glad you were able to answer some of the questions positively. Even when, as you said, “the old Fibro problems still crop up” from time to time, if we’ve got some sort of metrics that let us know we’re managing better in general it helps us feel more hopeful about the future. Blessings to you and many wishes for a fabulous year ahead!

  4. Being able to measure and acknowledge progress is so important for keeping hope alive. Excellent post, Terri. I find I hit frustration and then step back and in retrospect recognize that I have done more than last year, which encourages me.

    1. Thank you so much V.J.! Realizing we’ve made progress, no matter how small really does keep hope alive doesn’t it? Like you, I most often realize I’ve made progress in retrospect. Hope you’re doing well with all you have going on right now. Sending warm thoughts and hugs!

  5. Are there things I can do that I couldn’t do? Yes, listen to my body, say no to work, stop, rest and recharge. What a brilliant assessment tool Terri. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much Marie! I love that you’re learning to listen to your body and say no when you need to. Learning to allow ourselves to take that time to rest and recharge without feeling guilty is so vital! Many blessings to you — hope this year is going to be your best yet!

      1. It’s not before time, that’s for sure. It has been a hard lesson to learn! I love that Terri, that ‘this year is going to be my best yet’…I ‘ll take that, thank you!!!

  6. You push forward, reset goals when needed and not beat yourself up if your helps derails your goals. Instead of looking back at goals look at nano steps you made while sick. That’s all we can do and being negative about ourself isn’t warranted. 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing M! I especially love the “reset goals when needed and not beat yourself up” part because we often have to do that because of health issues. Realizing that even tiny steps are progress is so important! Many blessings to you throughout this coming year!

    1. Thanks for sharing Jennifer! Many blessings to you for this upcoming year also sweet friend!

    1. It’s so good to see you back Kim! I loved the Grandpa Tree too. It broke my heart when we lost it after the tornado. I’m glad you found the questions helpful. It’s just so hard to feel that you’re making progress sometimes, but hopefully, the answers to these questions will help us see that we are. I hope you’re doing better, dear friend. Wishing you more blessings than you can count in this upcoming year! Hugs!

  7. What a charming blog! I love this a great deal! My fibromyalgia keeps me wondering what kind of hour I’m going to have. Great advice on measuring personal success over a larger span of time. Now if only I can remember this during a bout with fibro fog. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Mrs. Jenbo! I think that one of the hardest things about fibromyalgia is how unpredictable it is from one minute to the next. I know exactly what you’re talking about with that. Thanks so much for your sweet comment and for the follow. I look forward to getting to know you!

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