(Health Secrets) Don’t miss the first three article in this series. They set the stage for understanding the true depth of the information that follows. Part one outlines the diagnostic criteria that determines chronic fatigue and differentiates it from other diseases with overlapping symptoms. Part two provides the information you need for understanding how a diagnosis is determined and what can go wrong in the process. Part three lists the treatment options for chronic fatigue that have been shown to be effective, and highlights the latest theories.
Now part four of our series explores the psychological ramifications of chronic fatigue, and the emotional and physical coping strategies that will greatly ease your struggle. Links to resources for what is discussed follow the article.
Coping with chronic fatigue
Chronic fatigue is usually an invisible illness, and people around you cannot tell that you don’t feel well. Because you don’t look sick, friends and family feel better pretending that nothing about you has changed. This is frustrating and you need tools to deal with people, gently but firmly. Most of these tools will apply to any chronic, invisible disease.
Coping psychologically: I was initially diagnosed with chronic fatigue in 2000. But I neither understood it nor took the disease seriously until I crashed some time around 2008. The sooner you understand chronic fatigue and change your lifestyle to maximize function and emotional well being, the better your life will be.
I met a good friend online who has dealt with chronic fatigue for over 25 years. She has been extraordinarily helpful in my journey. She was bed bound and suffered from seizures related to chronic fatigue. With appropriate diet, supplements and other healing modalities, she is now not only out of bed, but driving, gardening and doing other things that, a few years ago, seemed impossible. She believes that going completely grain free (not just gluten free) and dairy free have been the key tools in regaining function.
I am also recommend going completely grain and dairy free. Finding a friend who truly knows what you are going through and is on the same page regarding healing is immensely helpful. Some areas have support groups and you may be able to find online support groups. Be aware that support groups may increase, not decrease stress for some. They are not for everyone.
Accept your emotions: Really look at what you are feeling even if those thoughts are somewhat disturbing. Feelings aren’t right or wrong; they just are. Burying your feelings and pretending all is well will only hurt you. Ask for help when you need it – this is a sign of strength, not weakness. Trying to explain what is going on to family, friends and co-workers can be very difficult. Although Christine Miserandino, author of The Spoon Theory, has lupus and not chronic fatigue, her book applies to any chronic illness.
You may find yourself depressed initially or periodically, and this is normal. Prescription antidepressants come with horrible side effects and taking them actually helps less than 10% of the people for whom they are prescribed. On the other hand, taking charge of your life empowers you.
A diet high in the Omega 3s (DHA and EPA), along with fish or krill oil supplements can help depression. I also highly recommend the book titled The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, MA. She has helped thousands heal from depression and other psychological problems with a combination of diet and specific amino acids. You don’t have to be a scientist or medical professional to understand this book.
Using other healing modalities
Emotional freedom technique (EFT) is an easy to learn system in which you tap with your fingertips on some of the same sites used by acupuncturists. Self-tapping on these points can release negative emotions and also decrease physical discomfort. There are EFT practitioners but many people find success doing it themselves. I highly recommend the use of “choice” statements which you will find later in this article.
The Healing Codes is a simple, self-healing system by Alex Lloyd, PhD, ND.
Cold Laser Therapy is a site that says it is for “allergy antidotes”, but the use of the cold laser goes far beyond allergies. Cold laser therapy is also useful for emotions, wound healing, inflammation, muscle pain and organ balance.
Accept your limitations. As time goes on, you will need to markedly reduce occupational, social, physical, and personal activities. You need to pace yourself and find a balance between rest and activity that limits exacerbations (flare ups). Working out at a gym is probably a bad idea. Taking short walks may be all you can tolerate without making symptoms worse. Simple things like not taking a shower every day, breaking cleaning chores into small steps that only take a few minutes each, and resting with your feet up for a few hours in the afternoon can make a huge difference in how you feel.
Make sure you rest between periods of activity. Going to the grocery store or to a doctor’s office, or on a social outing may require 24 or more hours of very sedentary time to recover to baseline. I’m not saying never go out or do anything, but be aware that activities will exact a toll and give yourself adequate time to recover. Too much activity on good days results in more bad days. Don’t allow family and friends to push you into doing something you are not up to doing.
Get enough sleep. One of the diagnostic criteria for chronic fatigue is unrefreshing sleep. Getting restorative sleep is instrumental in maintaining/regaining function.
Prescription sleeping pills are rarely the answer. They have dangerous side effects, do not produce refreshing sleep, cause physical dependency, and don’t correct the underlying problem. Occasional use of over the counter (OTC) sleeping aids may be helpful, but your body will develop a resistance to them if used frequently. Some supplements such as melatonin, 5-HTP and tryptophan may be helpful. Again, before trying supplements or OTC products, talk to your knowledgeable health care provider about possible interactions with other prescription or OTC drugs and supplements which you may be taking.
Other things that may help
* Make sure you are exposed to bright light during the day and you sleep in the dark. During winter months or in areas where there isn’t much sunshine. you may want to invest in a full-spectrum lamp.
* Avoid all sources of nicotine.
* Avoid caffeine within 8 to 10 hours of bedtime.
* Limit alcohol. While alcohol can help you fall asleep, studies have shown that it reduces the quality of your sleep.
* Make sure your room is cool. Ideal sleeping temperature is 65 degrees F. While this is probably not possible in the heat of summer, the cooler the room, the better you will sleep.
* Avoid stimulating activities right before bedtime, including movies, TV and computer. Instead, listen to soft music, read or meditate.
* Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time very day, weekends included.
* Invest in a good mattress and pillow if at all possible. Discomfort is a major cause of sleep that is not refreshing.
Don’t miss part five, the last in this series: How to Work Effectively with Medical Personnel.
The Spoon Theory Send this link to everyone in your life
The Healing Codes
Cold Laser Therapy