With only a few weeks left of summer most people are about to take their last few trips before the leaves change. I've been fortunate to run a Fibromyalgia Support group that meets once a month in the Greater Metro Boston area and I've learned a lot from them. We've been revamping how we like to run our meetings, and have started to develop themes for people to prepare their own tips on different topics. A few weeks ago we discussed tips on managing Fibromyaglia symptoms when traveling. These are some great tips that work for them!
Plan your Trip Strategically
When most people go away on vacation so many people want to cram in as much as they can in the short time they have off. For those who are healthy and don't have medical issues this is usually fine, even though I suppose most people feel they need a vacation after their vacation. For people dealing with the pain and fatigue that is associated with Fibromyaglia, each day is unpredictable and you have only so much energy to spend each day. So, when planning your vacation plan your activities accordingly. If you find your energy is better in the morning, plan for activities that are morning oriented, if it's the afternoon then plan for afternoon activities. It's also beneficial to plan in rest breaks through your day, and even maybe a rest day with very low key activities.
Have a Home Base
This is such a great suggestion, especially when traveling with a group. Establishing with the group that, "I may at some point need to return back to "home base" to rest, do not feel bad that I will not able to stay with the group right now, and I will not feel bad about leaving to rest. I will be OK." Establishing where you will be returning to rest, or meditate, whatever helps you re-energize, will help the rest of the group know that this is normal, and everyone is OK. Having a home base of any group vacation is a great idea, especially if people get separated for whatever the reason.
This goes back to having a home base and planning your trips strategically. Having a conversation with your friends and family about what you'll need to help make your trip smoother is great to do well before the chaos of traveling. Whether it's making sure they don't ask you too many questions, how often you'll most likely need to rest, what sort of terrain may be difficult for you to considers, and so on. Giving clear boundaries before your trip will help clear the air of any misunderstandings.
No Alarm Clocks
I think this is a great recommendation for anyone who really wants to go on vacation and truly relax. Having a soft start to your morning and a flexible schedule will truly help you feel relaxed and not anxious about missing out. FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out is something that a lot of people struggle with, but if your vacation stresses you out then I highly recommend going without the alarm. Waking up naturally is very liberating, and some people will naturally wake up at the time they really want or need to wake up. Here's a great article about FOMO for those who may be addicted to it or social media.
Seated Meditation or Body Scan
If you find you get anxious about flying, overwhelmed with vacation planning, or even stressed while on vacation, taking even 5 minutes to do a seated Meditation can really help calm your system down. This is great for flying because you can sit in your chair before take-off and just focus on doing a a calming Meditation or Body Scan. Some people will have recorded meditation clips on their phone or iPod so that they can just pop their headphones in and tune out the world. An easy way to perform a quick body scan is to sit comfortably, close your eyes, and become aware of your feet and focusing on releasing any tension you feel. Repeat this by slowly moving up your legs, into your pelvis/hips, back, mid back, upper back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and to the top of your head. Before you know it you'll be focused and calm. If you have trouble focusing refocus your attention on your breath to help center yourself. Even taking 2 minutes to focus on your breath can greatly help calm you down. There are so many options with this, I'll plan to follow-up with a more in-depth post focused on Meditation and Body Scanning.
Being well hydrated is important for anyone traveling. An easy way to stay hydrated while traveling is making sure you have an easy to transport water bottle. Don't worry about the TSA if you're flying, just keep the bottle empty and fill it at a fountain once you get past security. Certainly be aware of how accessible restrooms are though, before you down your 8 oz. of water and hop on a ride that might not have bathrooms for awhile!
One of our group members recommended the benefits of working on Mandalas when traveling to help ease anxiety and pass the time. Making your own or coloring them in can help focus your attention, aid with meditation, and help with relaxation. Why do you think kids can color for hours? Why not be a kid again and do some coloring while relaxing! You can get some free printables here . You can also get coloring books, there are a lot of options out there.
One of the members also recommended this acupuncture mat the Zensufu Back Pain Relief Acupressure Massage Mat. She says that she does not travel without it and highly recommends it if you deal with chronic back pain. It rolls up and easily fits into your luggage. She recommends that you lie on your back with your legs elevated. Initially it can feel rather intense, but your body adjusts to the pressure points. Think of it as bombarding your pain pathways that after awhile it's too much information for your body to process and it just becomes dull after awhile. She reports that usually after about 15-20 minutes her pain significantly decreases.
Please share any of your own travel tips!
Written by: Natasha Heitman, DPT
**If you or someone you know has Fibromyalgia and would like to join our group please contact me and I can add you to our closed Facebook group. If you live in the Greater Boston area and would like to attend a meeting, also contact me!