From fitness to food, learning to live in a healthy way despite your challenging illness can be difficult. Watch the video below featuring Jenni Prokopy, a woman living with the chronic, widespread pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia, and learn how four small lifestyle changes can make a big impact. A transcript of the video is also available.
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Hi, and welcome to Fibromyalgia: 4 Tips for Healthy Living. My name is Jenni Prokopy and I'm just like you—a woman living with the chronic, widespread pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. Learning to live in a healthy way despite your illness can be challenging, so today I'm going to share some of my favorite tips with you.
Tip 1: Increase Your Activity
My first tip: Increase your activity. While most doctors recommend exercise, you may not feel ready for that yet. But if you feel up to it, you can start boosting your everyday activity level.
The easiest way to get started is by doing gentle activities that you like. You may want to walk your dog a few extra blocks today, or spend a few more minutes this afternoon in your garden. If you love cooking, spend some time at a farmer's market this weekend browsing the stands for fresh ingredients—and cook up a feast for your family. Any increase in activity can be good for you, no matter how small it feels.
If you do feel ready for exercise, speak with your health care provider about ways to ease back into a workout routine. Your doctor might recommend gentle, low-impact exercises, which can help increase your cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility.
Tip 2: Eat Well
My second tip: Eat well. Managing your diet has many benefits, not the least of which can be a boost to your immune system. A healthy diet can also give you more energy throughout the day and may help reduce some of your symptoms.
A balanced diet is a healthy diet, so when you're planning your meals, include a variety of fruits and vegetables, proteins, dairy and whole grains. And don't forget healthy snacks; you may even want to stash some on-the-go items in your handbag for smart snacking on the move.
Most people think of healthy eating in terms of foods to embrace, but that's just half of the equation. You should also look to avoid foods and drinks before bed that can disturb your sleep schedule, like sugary snacks or caffeinated beverages and alcohol. If you need help with meal planning, talk to your health care provider about working with a nutritionist.
Tip 3: Take Time to Relax
My third tip: Take time to relax. Stress can be tough on your body, so knowing how to manage it is essential.
The most basic stress management tool is simply stepping out of a situation and taking a few moments for yourself. If your day is taking a toll, find a way to change the scene: head outside for a walk around the block, or put on your headphones and listen to your favorite song. You may want to take 20 minutes for a short nap, or immerse yourself in a good book.
You may even want to consider learning meditation or guided imagery, both of which will teach you relaxing breathing techniques you can take anywhere, anytime.
Tip 4: Do What You Love
My final tip: Do what you love. Your energy might be limited, so prioritize your activities; you may not be able to accomplish everything on your to-do list every day, but you'll feel better knowing you finished the most important tasks (or the most fun ones).
Don't be afraid to delegate! If you love to fold fresh laundry, then enlist a family member to tackle some of the other chores. If your weekly girls' night out helps you feel supported, then keep Fridays free in your calendar.
You can't do everything—really, no one can—but if you do the things that are most important, the things you simply love to do, you can enjoy each day much more.