This post is dedicated to the gorgeous Christiana- thank you so much for contributing my darling. Hope you’re having a lovely day!
One of the most frustrating parts of my healing and recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was the idea of ‘pacing’ myself. I’d read books about it, everybody talks about it in relation to the illness, but putting it into practice is something else entirely. If you’re used to being independent and not having to worry about whether you’re actually going to have enough energy to do x, y and z, the concept of having to ration out your energy and second-guess how you’re going to feel in however many hours’ time is incredibly daunting, not to mention embarrassing. (That’s another thing about CFS as well. One minute you’re fine, the next minute you’re wiped doing something you usually have no problems with. It’s completely random and sporadic, and therefore impacts on your life in a major way!)
If you’re anything like me, you want to use your energy immediately when you’ve got it. It’s a beautiful day, you want to walk up the street (sometimes, I could barely manage to walk across the room, never mind the street), maybe go to a cafe, then walk home. You want to do it now, not tomorrow, not in 2 hours’ time- now. This is your body’s way of telling you you’re ready- right?! Well, maybe, but chances are, probably not.
Here are 5 tips on how to learn to listen to your body and help you really know whether you’re really ready to go for a walk/visit friends/go downstairs/do ‘that thing’.
How to Learn to Listen to your Body:
1) Tune in for a second
Once you’ve made the decision in your mind to do something and you’re feeling the energy and determination running through you, just close your eyes for a few seconds. Why do you want to do this? Is it for you, or is it for someone else? Is this too much for me? How will you feel tonight or tomorrow after doing what you’re about to do? Meditate quietly for a few seconds. Every time I’ve done this and meditated, I’ve got my answer. Usually as soon as I close my eyes, I know intuitively whether or not I can cope with this. In the very early to mid stages of CFS, every time I’ve ignored this voice, I’ve paid the price for days or sometimes weeks afterwards. If there is any doubt in your mind at all as to whether you should be doing what you’re about to do, don’t do it.
I always found that when I wasn’t ready for something, I would decide to do it and this huge rush of unnatural energy would wash over me. I’d feel really shaky and jittery, but took this as excitement. This ‘excitement’ was probably adrenalin, and chances are if you’ve got CFS, then adrenal problems factor into your illness too. Putting too much pressure on your adrenal glands can tire you out or cause a ‘crash’ incredibly quickly, hence the reason you really need to tune in. Don’t make yourself more tired than when you first started out!
2) Think of your energy as a savings account
I like to think of my energy as my personal savings account. If I spend everything I have in there, it’s always going to be empty and I’m always going to be left with nothing. If you’re having a ‘good’ day, fantastic- love it, be grateful for it and honour it. Then, chances are, tomorrow will be a good day too. Don’t go crazy and go running around like a lunatic trying to do everything you haven’t been able to do over the last few weeks because you’ve been in bed. Take this as a sign from your body to rest and be thankful for tomorrows with gradual increases in energy. The day when you can go out will then come to you, probably sooner than you think.
3) Know your warning symptoms
If I’d been really going crazy, not eating properly, not stopping for breaks and really ignoring rest and relaxation, I’d get muscle spasms in my hands and feet, which I would then wake-up with and take with me into the next day. This cycle would then repeat itself, get worse and you can probably imagine the rest. Slurred speech was also a warning sign for me- in my head, I sounded fine, but my fiance would suddenly usher me to the sofa to lie down when this happened, I then knew I had to rest up and really let everything go.
Get to know your body’s triggers. Only you know what yours are and these are different for everyone. Maybe yours are headaches, blurred vision, brain-fog or nutrition-related, such as craving more sugar or salt. Think about your probable triggers and watch out for them. This is your body’s way of telling you to really slow it down- now.
4) Only listen to yourself, not to others
At the beginning of my illness, despite good and kind intentions from my family, they were constantly on my back to do things in the hope that I’d miraculously feel better- go to a restaurant, go shopping, go and visit someone. Only you can decide what is right for you. If you feel pressurised into doing something, thank the person asking you, say that you’ll give it a miss today, but maybe you can think about it for next week. Always know that they have good intentions, but do not feel pressurised into doing something which you know intuitively will make you feel worse.
5) Keep a diary
This can extend into all areas of your recovery, but if you have the strength, keep a diary of good days and bad days, or ask a relative to help you. What symptoms do you have? What did you do the day before? What did you eat the day before? You might then be able to spot a pattern in your habits that can help you realise why some days you feel better than others. This also acts as a motivator, so when you see past ‘good days’ on a bad day, you will still feel hopeful and optimistic in your recovery.
I hope this helps you in some way. It’s along road, and a frustrating one, but learning how to do this can really help in your long-term, sustained recovery.
I’d love to know how you cope with pacing and how to tune into your body. Please share your comments below!
Love and listening,