September 11


Relaxation Basics for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illness

By Sue Ingebretson

September 11, 2018

activities, ANS, autoimmune, Autonomic Nervous System, breathe, chronic illness, fibromyalgia, gratitude, meditation, nature, peace, prayer, relaxation, relaxation response, Stress, stress response

Relaxation and fibromyalgia? Not likely. A more familiar pairing is stress and fibromyalgia. Or, perhaps, late-night pizza and heartburn. One thing follows the other in a logical sequence. Stress isn’t front page news. But, reducing it is. It may seem illogical, but shifting from stress toward relaxation CAN be done. And, it’s not all that difficult.

Relaxation and the Stress On/Off Switch

When it comes to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), the stress response is either ON or OFF. This is some of the most exciting news I share with those seeking health improvements.


I’ve just shared the antidote to stress.

The ANS responds in one of two ways to what’s going on in life. Besides the status quo (an all’s well existence), it triggers the stress response or the relaxation response. One or the other.

Stress comes all on its own.

The antidote – relaxation –

needs an invitation.

That’s why practices that create a sense of wellness are always top of my to-do list.

For more tips, check out my top 5 Fibro Stress Strategies here. 

Hello, Are You In There?

Under stress, we’re not really living in our body. We’re instead living in our heads.

The shoulda, woulda, coulda gremlins catch up to us and keep us living in the past.

This shows up as sadness, depression, regret.

Or, we create thought loops about the future, creating one scenario after the other predicting doom.

This shows up as worry and anxiety.

Many of us bounce from one to the other.

But notice that neither way allows you to live IN the present moment.

That’s what relaxation techniques do.

Prayer and Meditation as Go-To Approaches

Prayer is always a forerunning go-to approach for stress relief. Praying – the act of reaching out and feeling connected – helps us to feel safe, secure, and settled. Prayer is a place where we can talk, ask, petition, and lay out our concerns and worries. It’s where we can express gratitude and joy. Whatever is on your mind, prayer is a great place to let it go.

Dr. Roberta Lee, the author of The SuperStress Solution, has this to say about prayer, “Spirituality connects you to the world, which in turn enables you to stop trying to control things all by yourself. When you feel part of a greater whole, it’s easy to understand that you aren’t responsible for everything that happens in your life.”[1]

For more on what current brain scientists have to say about the benefits of prayer, check out this short – and fascinating! – video.  

Meditation and prayer are often synonymous. A meditative state allows us space to “just be.” Many soothing activities such as walking in nature, listening to music, taking a bath, and working with your hands (knitting, crocheting, painting, coloring, drawing, etc.) are meditative practices.

Meditation doesn’t mean sitting cross-legged on the floor chanting “OM.” Of course, if that’s within your comfort zone, go right ahead. But it’s far more likely to get done when we think of meditation as simple, easy, and effortless.

Clearing our minds is an impossibility. At least for the vast majority of the population. Don’t don’t worry about it. Take a breath. Invite a sense of peace. Let gratitude fill your soul and crowd out the chaos.

Meditation can be as simple as that.

Don’t Have Time to Relax?

Remember that the ANS response is like an on/off switch. For those of us challenged with fibromyalgia, autoimmune, and chronic illness, the response is “stuck” in the on position. Stress is experienced – physically and emotionally – 24/7.

Making the time to practice a simple relaxation method is your first step toward getting a handle on your stress. Even if it’s for 30 seconds, that time is well spent.

As you aggregate your experiences of relaxation, your body will learn to slip into the relaxation mode faster and with less effort. Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat. 

This is one area where practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes perfect sense.

What’s your favorite go-to relaxation method?


Don’t forget to visit more practices in this series – 

Deep Breathing!

Moving Meditations for Chronic Healing

Tapping for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illness

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"True Healing requires a combination of healthy nutrition, healthy body movements, and emotional wellness. This is what I call the Restoration Trio" ~ Sue Ingebretson