If you are suffering from a chronic illness like M.E/CFS, Chronic fatigue syndrome or Fibromyaglia you have probably dealt with your fair share of setbacks and symptom flare ups. Weeks completely bed-bound, muscles aching so bad that they feel like they are tearing your muscles apart, dizziness so bad that every time you stand up you fall back down, headaches so severe that you feel like your brain is about to explode . I could go on forever but will leave it at that for now.
Setbacks and flare ups are unfortunately part of suffering chronic illness, and although they can often be out of your control, there are many ways to 1. Avoid them and 2. Deal/manage them better to further help manage your condition and progress your health over time.
“Don’t let your setbacks control you, rather you control them.”
First lets talk about avoiding set backs altogether.
Although it may feel impossible to get a hold of your setbacks, it is possible to minimize the impact of them in terms of frequency and duration.
1. Pace yourself – Yes everyone has heard of the term “pacing” but are you really putting it into practice – it is easy to get carried away with having a good day and pushing the envelope on that day to get everything done or do everything you can with all the energy you have. The only problem is the post effect of pushing the envelope ruins the rest of your week. Learning to pace yourself even on the “good days” is very important for long term progression and to ultimately avoid major setbacks.
2. Find your baseline – You need to know what you can and cant do, and by that I mean what you can and cant do without making you feel any worse than you currently do. If you can stay within you limits (BASELINE) you are less likely to have a major setback. If you stay within your baseline and maintain and manage your health, you are likely to be able to improve or progress your daily routine over time. Aim for small incremental changes rather then drastic ones which will put your body in a state of stress and your body will not be able to handle that kind of “BIG CHANGE” overnight. This will help you avoid the boom and bust cycle of going up and down with energy levels every second week.
3. Listen to YOUR BODY. It’s is your best teacher.
Your body is great at giving you warning signs, You just have to listen to it better. If you are on the verge of a set back you will usually have a an onset of symptoms that come on before you hit a wall. If you can pick up on the orange flashing light as a slow down sign, rather then getting a red light and having to stop because of it. Learn from past mistakes of pushing and crashing and listen to your body.
4. Get into a routine – Once you find your baseline it is important to set up a consistent daily routine that you can stick to over time. If you stick to it and keep within your bounderies you will be less likely to overdo it and cause a flare up or setback. Make sure your routine is manageable for you. No point setting yourself up for failure and set something out that is impossible to stick to.
5. Control your stress or it will control you.
Having a stress strategy to have when stress does arise in your life. Whether that’s having a coach to keep you in check and constantly evolving yourself, or having a meditation CD you use, write down your emotions, keep a journal – check http://www.cfshealth.com/three-reasons-why-you-should-keep-a-journal/ for tips or a self strategy that can help you MANAGE your stress before it takes over your health. Too often stress causes physical and emotional chaos and can have a devastating effect on the body. Unfortunately stress in the number one cause of chronic illness right now in the world. Do your best to manage your stress or else it will manage you.
6. Find balance –This goes back to finding your baseline. However if you do too little or do too much your more likely to have a flare up, decondition or have a setback. Finding just the right amount for you to do on a daily scale is vital to health management and progression over the long term. So rather when you get a burst of energy don’t use it all up at once. Contain your energy and use it wisely. Use my 10 credit rule system – you have 10 credits per day. You can use or gain credits depending what you do. CREDIT subtraction occours when you use energy. This would include, daily activities, events, work, socializing, using electronics, However you can gain credits by having sufficient rest breaks, meditation, restorative movement, proper nutritional intake, adequate sleep, or doing something that gives you energy. You don’t want to use all your credits up in one day. Rather keep some in the store for the next day as you may need it. CFS already depletes you of energy so spend your credits wisely.
Okay so all that being said… I know it isn’t easy to stick to and sometimes setbacks and flare ups are unavoidable in life. So here are some good ways to deal with them better.
7. REST – if you are in the middle of a setback it is important to just STOP and rest. This doesn’t mean forever this is until your health stabilizes and you can get back on your feet and move around the house.
EASE into it – Once you get back on your feet you shouldn’t just go back to what you were prior to the setback. Start back at square one and ease back into it over a week or two – This way your not overloading your body as it is still recovering from a set back.
8. STOP looking for quick fixes – Sometimes rushing around and panicking can make things worse. Rather than trying to find the “next thing” to fix you, it can do more harm then good sometimes – just be still and rest your mind and body.
9. Proper nutrition – Food is fuel. Focus on good whole foods that provide energy to your body including good hydration. One thing with food is you need to eat slower and smaller amounts so your body and digestive system isn’t overloaded all at once. Instead have a more frequent smaller meals over a period of the day.
10. Symptom management – Rather then looking for the “ANWSER” – look for things that may help you 5-10 % regarding symptom management. Whether that is alternative therapy, medicine for your cold or flu, therapists, massage, coaching, or supplements, don’t expect it to fix you, however if it helps you 5-10% then it may be worth doing. Your long term goal should focusing on improving your overall health, not just symptom management. However in the short term if you symptoms are persisting, relief is important. Everyone is different and EVERYONE reacts differently to different things. Never compare yourself to anyone else and certainly don’t expect overnight miracles. I did for years and every time I had a glimpse of hope I was left shattered and upset because it didn’t work. Remember HEALTH is a forever thing, recovery takes time and recovery is hard but not recovering is harder.
Of course there are many more helpful tools for symptom and setback management however if you can get on top of these key important things, you are more likely to regain control of your setbacks and flare ups rather then it control you.
I am interested to hear what helped you with your own personal story – feel free to share 🙂
Toby Morrison the founder of CFS health and is an Ex M.E/CFS sufferer and now a M.E/CFS advocate and author of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a guide to recovery (link) and founded the worlds biggest CFS Health online recovery program for more information click here www.cfshealth.com