HOPE Logo: Healthy Diet, Optimism, Prayer&Meditation, Exercise with text overlay: The HOPE Plan for Fibromyalgia, a Self-care Framework

The HOPE Plan for Fibromyalgia: A Self-Care Framework

I did something last Sunday that broke my heart a little. It was something I needed to do, but it was still difficult. I told my Life Group co-teacher that I wouldn’t be teaching after February. This was a hard decision because I love the ladies in my Life Group and I love teaching.

Although it’s difficult, I know it’s necessary for me to take a step back from some of my commitments in order to do the things I need to do to feel better. As I mentioned in The Year of You, my flares have become fewer and further between, but as I did an honest assessment, I realized my day-to-day pain has increased.

I hadn’t realized my pain had gotten worse for a few reasons: the increase was gradual, I feel stronger than ever, and I’m able to work through whatever discomfort I’m feeling more often now. Once I realized the truth, though, I recognized that if I don’t do something about it now, my pain will likely continue to get worse.

I have to re-commit to my HOPE Plan and, for a while at least, make that my priority. That means letting go of some things, and though it’s hard, I know it’s the right decision.

As I revisit my HOPE plan, I may make some adjustments or try new things, but the key pillars of the plan will remain the same.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is so crucial to our body’s function, and can have a huge impact on the way we feel. For some of us with chronic illness, there may be foods that trigger symptoms and must be avoided. In general, we want to eat a good variety of real food that nourishes our bodies and helps us feel our best.

In this area, I look at:

  • How I want to structure my meals
  • What my restrictions will be on the number of times I eat out in a given week
  • The types of foods I want to include in my diet every day

Optimism

As we talked about in The ABC’s of Remaining Optimistic, being optimistic doesn’t mean that we have to have a Pollyanna-ish view of life. It means that we live with dynamic optimism: optimism based on action. We believe that we can take steps to make our lives better, regardless of our circumstances.

Some of the things I include in my plan for this area include:

  • Affirmations
  • Gratitude
  • Stress reduction

Prayer and Meditation

For me personally, prayer is absolutely vital to my wellbeing. I realize that not everyone believes the way I do, and that’s fine – if you don’t want to pray, you could practice Mindfulness Meditation or another type of meditation if you wish.

My plan includes:

  • Prayer
  • Meditation on Scripture and/or Mindfulness Meditation

Exercise

Exercise can be difficult, and it’s hard to be consistent with it sometimes, but movement is absolutely vital. When we can’t do “official exercise” we can still do some purposeful movement within our limitations. The important thing to remember is not to try to do too much too soon.

The easiest way to work more movement into our day is to:

  • Start out by just getting a few more steps. Simply getting up every hour to move around a little bit can help immensely.
  • Once we’re moving more, we can add some things such as stretching or posture exercises.
  • Once we’re able to do these consistently, we can begin to add other types of exercise as we feel ready.

Having a self-care plan is critical. You may have seen the saying that, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” (Benjamin Franklin) We have to be proactive with our health, especially when we live with a chronic illness. We can’t depend on taking care of ourselves when we feel like it. If we do that, it might never get done.

Sometimes it can feel selfish to make taking care of ourselves a priority, but if we don’t take care of ourselves we can’t take care of those we love. Self-care doesn’t mean avoiding responsibility or giving up on “life as we knew it.” What it does mean is that we structure our environment to help us be successful with feeling as well as we possibly can.

Do you have a self-care plan? What types of things do you include in yours? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

24 comments

  1. I know how hard it is to cut back, but like you said, if you didn’t, your pain would continue to increase. I am following a similar journey this year. Whether others understand or not no longer matters. Living at a pain level that doesn’t continually trigger flares is what gifts me quality time with my family and that is what matters more than anything else I do. *high five for listening to your body and doing what needs to be done.

    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement Cynthia! I’m so glad you’re able to do the things that give you that quality time with your family. Like you, I consider that the most important thing of all. Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

  2. Hey Terri – You know you and we’re proud of you for making those tough decisions to be the most you can be for yourself and others! Good job and great advice.

    1. Thanks so much Tim! You and Sarah are so precious to me, and I appreciate your support more than I can say. You guys are such an encouragement, not just to me, but everyone who knows you. Sending love to you both!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Ash! I’m sorry to hear you have fibromyalgia also. It’s definitely not a fun thing to live with, but I’m thankful we can still have a full, purposeful life. We just have to experiment sometimes and work to find out what works for us. Blessings to you!

      1. So true, Terri. It takes it’s toll on me and my body daily. At times, managing it frightening, but I’m doing my best to still enjoy my life with it. Essential oils and the aloe vera plant helps me a great deal.

  3. I had to make a tough decision too Terri. I have left our church choir after more than seven years. There was too many extra pressures at peak times like Christmas, with concerts, rehearsals… I feel better for my decision, although I was very sad at the time.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear you had to leave the choir, Brigid. I know I’ve seen that you love to sing, so I’m sure that must have been a tough decision. I put off my decision for a long time because I love teaching so much, but I realize I’m not giving either myself or my class my best when pain addles my brain. Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement Marie! I’m certainly hoping that getting back to the basics of my plan and actually doing those things I know should help will pay dividends. Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

      1. That’s all any of us need, a little encouragement until we realise we can encourage ourselves! Hope you are feeling better and more empowered daily! Xx

    1. Thanks so much Savannah. I just read your post on having to leave teaching. I can tell that your students are your heart, and I hope you’ll have the opportunity to return at some point. Blessings to you!

  4. Aww Terri, I’m sorry you had to make that tough decision. You did well though, it shows self care to be able to step back from something that you love because it’s working against you in some way, whether through stress or exhaustion or symptom flaring. I love that you’ve made a HOPE plan downloadable for everyone, that’s such a kind and thoughtful thing for you to do. And it’s great to see your thoughts on these areas and what everyone could look at including and focusing on, with or without prayer and religion being involved so as to suit anyone. I think getting past the guilt and feeling self care like this is ‘selfish’ is such a big hurdle to overcome, but it’s so important because, as you quite rightly say, we need to take care of ourselves so we can be there for others, too. Wonderful post, Terri!

    Caz xx

    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement Caz! It was a difficult decision, but I really do have peace about it. I know there will be other opportunities to have a positive impact and show God’s love. I agree with you that overcoming the whole guilt and feeling selfish thing is a big hurdle. Even when we think we’ve cleared it, we find ourselves trying to get back over it time and time again. It’s just a process, I guess, but it’s an important one. Hope you’re doing well sweet friend! Sending lots of love and hugs your way!

  5. So many times, I just wish you and I could sit down over tea. Glad to hear you are taking care of yourself. You also seem to hit the nail on the head for me. I think I’m doing so much more, then wham, I recognize old symptoms flaring – sneaky ones – and recognize the need to pull back. Such a fine line.

    1. I wish the same thing V.J.! It would be lovely to have a nice visit over a cup of tea. Isn’t it odd how we don’t even notice the increase in symptoms for so long? I guess our tolerance just increases as the pain does. I hope you’re doing well sweet friend. Sending hugs your way!

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