How I manage my Fibromyalgia with uni stress

07 Dec 2021
By Sonam P., Student at Aston University

Deadlines, pressure to make friends, feeling homesick - the list of stressors students go through is endless. Add a disability on top of that, and managing uni life can feel impossible. Sonam has Fibromyalgia, which can flare up at times of stress. Here’s how she manages this ‘invisible’ disability at university.

Uni consists of lots of fun, studying and the occasional period of stress - particularly around exam season, right?

As someone who has a chronic illness - Fibromygia - I’ve noticed that when I feel stressed at uni, my symptoms, like fatigue, widespread pain and stiffness become worse (also referred to as a flare-up). Personally, I think it’s just plain cruel that my chronic illness can make me feel stressed, while stress itself also worsens my symptoms.

What even is stress? Well, in simple terms it’s your body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. And it can appear in many forms, including a change in appetite, feeling overwhelmed and/or mood swings.

Nevertheless, not all levels of stress are bad.

In fact, it can help motivate you in meeting the demands of daily life. With that being said, transitioning into uni life I was very concerned about keeping my levels of stress under control. It wasn’t about eliminating every factor that made me feel under pressure - because that would mean ignoring all my deadlines, never returning the library books I took out (soz), and avoiding my parents call when I just knew they were going to ask me if I’ve started that essay that I hadn’t.

Instead, for me it meant being more self-aware - which included focusing on what factors at uni made me feel more stressed, and negatively impacted my Fibromyalgia. That way I could set boundaries to limit the stressors. One thing I noticed was that whenever I had a poor night's sleep, my body aches and stiffness increased, and when my chronic pain was more painful it could affect the amount of uni work I got done… and if a disrupted sleeping pattern became a habit, burnout was likely.

Luckily, I realised this during my first year, where I was already in the process of figuring out a routine that suited me as a new student. Therefore, I was easily able to create a sleeping routine that worked for me, and when I did have late nights, I would plan for the following day where possible, so I could get everything that I wanted done. Doing this definitely helped me manage stress as a student with Fibromyalgia.

With deadlines, lectures, adulting and all the other pressures uni life brings, stress is almost inevitable. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel stress at times, because establishing your boundaries takes time.

But once you do, uni life becomes even more enjoyable.

If stress is impacting your health, support is out there. Check out these resources:

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I’m a business management student nearing the end of my studies. Beside loving to write in my spare time, I enjoy traveling and exploring.