Ten strategies on the path of healing.
SLEEP : Make sure you get enough restful sleep. Refrain from the use of all electronic devices by 9 pm. Commit to be in bed ready to sleep by 10pm. This is when the melatonin in your body is at its optimum. Keep electronic devices outside of the bedroom. Cease any caffeine drinks by early afternoon. Have a ritual before you go to bed to wind down so your body knows it is time to go to sleep. Soft music, lavender oil in an oil burner, dimmed lighting or candlelight, warm shower or bath with epsom salts and essential oil, are all gentle ways to prepare for sleep and signal the body its time to rest.
KEEP HYDRATED: It may seem like a no brainer but its is incredibly important to make sure you are properly hydrated. Cut down on caffeinated drinks as these tend to act as diuretics and dehydrate the body. Instead drink water, fresh unprocessed juices and herbal teas. Have a jug of water that you fill in the morning and drink throughout the day so you know how your fluid intake by the end of the day. Always drink clean filtered water.
BE REALISTIC with your energy : Many people with CFS, Fibromyalgia and chronic illnesses suffer what’s referred to as “crash and burn”. They get a burst of energy and want to do all the things they haven’t been able to do, – understandably. This often leads to a “crash” in energy, which can last hours, days or weeks. The idea is to conserve and balance your energy and not use it all up at once……It’s all about management….. Like with recharging a battery you don’t want to use up the recharge too quickly or you will find yourself back to a dead battery.
PACE YOURSELF : To avoid crashing in a heap, do small amounts of activity with rests in between. Avoid committing to activities that will burn your energy and over tax your system. If you take a walk or do exercise stop before you are tired. Walk slowly and gently. Choose exercise that will not stress your system and if you are in a class make sure you communicate your limitations to the instructor . Time yourself on your walks and notice how you feel and when you start to tire. It is extremely important you become familiar with your limitations and work around those. If you can walk 20 minutes and are OK , do that for 2 weeks then increase in small increments i.e. 3 minutes at a time.
Listen to your body it is constantly sending you messages and if you don’t listen it will scream at you until you do.
DETOXIFY : There are many “toxic” elements in our lives. These can be the food we eat, our own thinking patterns, our environment, media we watch or read, or even other people in our lives. Eat a healthy non-processed diet, organic wherever possible. Watch your thoughts, Yes we can actually do damage to ourselves by negative and “toxic” thinking. Keep away from people and environments you find draining instead gravitate towards people who support you and who’s company you enjoy. Frequent environments that you find relaxing and uplifting. Enjoy life as much as possible within your limitations.
BE WILLING TO LET GO : Chronic illness by its very nature demands we change our lives. We can lose lifestyles, finances, friends, jobs and other parts of our former life. This can be a really wonderful thing and can be a blessing in disguise. We don’t get sick totally by accident. Stresses can wear us down leaving us open and vulnerable to illness. If something doesn’t serve you, Let it go. If the people around you aren’t willing to adjust to your new needs then maybe they aren’t the people you want to spend time with during your healing period. If your job is too draining see if you can cut down your hours or perhaps find a way of working in another way that suits your current needs. Tailor your expenditure to your new budget.This can be a creative process it doesn’t need to be bad. By letting go of the old we are welcoming the new.
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” Martin Luther King
STRATEGIES FOR SOCIAL ENGAGEMENTS : As someone with a history of chronic illness I have had periods where too much noise or bright lights just want to make me cry from feeling so over whelmed. Only commit to what you can handle. And remember there is no shame if you can’t cope once you are there.If you are going to a cafe or a restaurant arrive early so you can pick the table best suited to your needs. When possible chose place where you know you will feel comfortable and places & people that don’t overload your senses. You may want to meet for lunches instead of dinners, coffee or juice instead of a meal. You need to “work smart”.
If there is a big function, time your participation, which may mean attending only part of the event. Plan ahead to support yourself making sure you are properly nourished and get the rest you need in order to cope with the situation. You have to call the shots as it is you that has a set of needs that need to be met. Honor those needs by planning your activities so they are as enjoyable and stress free as possible. That can also mean being OK with cancelling because you don’t feel up to it.
LIMIT TALKING ABOUT ILLNESS : As you go out into the world in your “illness and recovery state” you will encounter a lot of questions and sometimes you may feel like you need to justify yourself. What to say when someone asks, “How are you?” when you feel awful and like you were just hit by a truck. You need to develop strategies to cope with this as it can be incredibly draining to have to explain your illness. Being a “chronic or mystery illness” the general population don’t understand. Through no fault of their own people tend to believe that Chronic fatigue or FM is just being tired. They will tell you they also get tired. They will also offer a plethora of well meaning advice that is mostly not helpful and sometimes invalidating.
Some of the advice I was offered in times of feeling really unwell were…… ” you just need a boyfriend”, “you need to get out more” ,” you need to exercise more”, ” have you thought about taking anti depressants?” “you don’t look sick you cant be that bad” and many more. I felt like I was humoring these “well-meaning” people whilst I was sitting there dying inside and wanting to escape. They didn’t realize that to get showered, dressed, fed and out the door to meet them was a monumental effort which would render me exhausted and in pain for the next 24 to 48 hours.
Talking about “your illness” is a trap you need to be very wary about as it can sap your energy. It also gives ownership to the illness ” my illness” and therefor psychologically reinstates to your brain that the illness is yours.( which presumably you don’t want ) Choose carefully who you discuss it with and be aware when you enter into the conversation ensuring you have a strategy prepared for how you are going to handle it. Avoid finding yourself in the situation where you feel invalidated and unsupported.
“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.” Thich Nhat Hanh
LEARN TO TOTALLY RELAX : It may sound simplistic but to deeply relax is not as common as it may seem. Sure, we may rest but we are often still doing something while resting. Talking on the phone, watching TV, surfing the net, etc. When people have chronic illness their body is often in a “fight or flight” mode from the trauma. This causes raised adrenalin levels and over time the adrenal system becomes fatigued. We forget how to relax and we can become incapable of relaxing. As part of healing, relaxing is paramount as we need to de-stress our systems.
In his book , Medical Medium Anthony William writes ” every single soul on this planet is dealing with some sort of post -traumatic stress disorder ( PSTD) .This isn’t just the fight-or-flight response to tragedy or war trauma that veterans suffer from- that is the well-known and documented form of PTSD. There is also an epidemic of hidden PTSD” ( ref : Chapter 13 , page 165 Medical Medium )
Dealing with a chronic illness can traumatize our nervous systems. Consider ways to totally relax and help your nervous system to repair itself other than sleeping. Time in nature, access some relaxation CD’s or downloads,listen to music, learn mediation if you don’t already practice it, breath consciously for five minutes a day, walk in the park, play in water, take time or out have a massage.
SELF LOVE : In the face of chronic illness it is really important to be gentle on yourself. You may like to go out and party with your friends or run the marathon and you may feel really disappointed that you can’t do what you want to or what you did before. Self-love is supporting yourself during this time. Avoid placing unrealistic expectations on yourself. A change has taken place and you need to be nurtured in order to heal.It starts with self care. Fit your own oxygen mask before you fit another persons. Be aware of your inner dialogue. Foster an inner dialogue that encourages and supports. Speak to yourself as you would to a very dear friend in need. Become your own best friend and your own best advocate. Communicate with your body reassuring it that everything is OK and that your are listening to it. And do listen to it. Just know everything is constantly changing and the more you nurture and support yourself the the closer you are to healing.
“The only thing you can do is make the shift within yourself”