The First Steps To Healing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Let me start by painting a picture for you, a picture that I'm sure for many of you is very familiar:
"After months of not feeling well - I'm talking extreme exhaustion, restless aching body, terrible concentration, consistent sore throat, to name a few - you are finally given a diagnosis, for so long all you have wanted is an answer. You are finally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue, but unfortunately the struggle doesn't end here. Your doctor says there is no one definite plan for recovery, each person is different, and a lot of it comes down to trial and error, basically there is not much I can do for you."
It still shocks me the amount of people that tell me their doctor was no help, that they didn't know or understand much about CFS, and basically left them to their own devices. It makes me realise how lucky I was to have found a great doctor who was with me every step of the way, they are out there, sometimes they are just hard to find.
A question I am often asked is:
What is the first step I can do to start healing from CFS?
My answer is always MINDSET.
I truly believe that if you want to recover you have to get your mindset sorted. I'm not saying you to be positive and happy all the time, absolutely not, but there are certain things you can do to make sure your mindset will help in your recovery not hold you back. This is way the first chapter in my eBook From Surviving to Thriving is mindset.
Our mind is such a powerful tool, one that should be used to our advantage, but so often we forget to pay attention to our mind and what it is thinking and in a strange way doing.
So here are my top 5 tips for using your mindset to help you heal from CFS.
1. Accept the situation you are in right now.
Whenever I start working with a new client one of the first things we talk about is acceptance. You have to accept the situation you are in right now, no matter how bad. Accepting it does not mean that you have to like it, or that you don't want to change it. I see so many people not fully accepting where they are, they are not admitting to themselves and others how sick they are, they are continuing to fight and push through, they are continuing to complain about how shit it is and all the things they can't do.
When people start to accept where they are, accept how sick they are, accept that there are some things that right now they can't do, I find that their experience goes from one of fighting against CFS to one of going with CFS. Again, going with CFS does not mean that you have accepted defeat and are not trying to get better, it means that you start to work with your body, and what it is able to do and not against it. I find when people accept their situation they find it a lot easier to start to make positive changes. When you are in the frame of mind of fighting against what is happening, making those positive changes can be very difficult.
2. Let yourself feel all the emotions - both good and bad.
For so long I thought that have a positive mindset meant that you always had to be happy all the time, this could actually not be further from the truth. Having a positive mindset is all about allowing yourself to FEEL every emotion, yes, the good and the bad, or as I now like to call them the comfortable and the uncomfortable. When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness like CFS you are of course going to feel a range of emotions. And guess what this is totally okay, and good for you.
I give you permission to feel and express (in a healthy way) everything that you are feeling. Anger, frustration, confusion, overwhelm, hopeless, alone, motivated, happy, positive, whatever it is, feel it. Being positive all the time is actually not good for you, you need to also learn how to process negative emotions. So, go on have a cry, punch a pillow, write in your journal, speak to a friend, dance to your favourite song, whatever works for you, just please don't keep it all to yourself.
3. Get out of the funk.
Now once you have experienced all the emotions - and I'm guessing here there were quite a few not so good and uncomfortable emotions - which is totally fine and to be expected it's time to then pull yourself out of the funk, and start making positive steps towards recovery. When and how you pull yourself out of your funk is totally up to you. From experience - and trust me this took me a long time to learn - you can start to tell when you are ready to get out.
You can start to feel when is the right time to give yourself a little push to get going, but it's learning to trust yourself enough to know that you will be able to get out when the time is right. Sometimes you may stay in your funk for months, and that's okay, remember you are dealing with some massive life changes, things you cannot just accept and get over in a day. So, if you need a few months that's fine, give yourself that.
What I do find is over time each time you find yourself in a bit of a funk, you seem to stay there for less and less time. Slowly your funk that lasts for months will start to last for weeks, and then eventually for days. The one thing I do know is you have to give yourself all the time you need, if you try and push your way out before you are ready, you will only find yourself back where you started. I give you permission to stay in your funk for as long as you need, but also encourage you to trust yourself enough that you will know when it is time to get out.
4. Focus on the things you are able to do.
Once you find yourself slowly coming out of your funk now is the time to start to shift your focus. I am going to hazard a guess and say that a lot of you have been focusing on all the things you CAN'T do, am I right? That is totally normal, when so many things are taken away from you it’s natural that this is what you will focus on. What I encourage you to do is start to focus on all the things that you can do, no matter how small they are.
Shifting your attention in this way will mean that you naturally start to feel better about yourself, you will naturally start to feel more positive. The more positive and better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to make decisions that support your recovery. You will find that you are kinder to yourself, and more accepting of where you are right now - which as we know is really important. Get out there and make a list of all the things you were able to do today.
5. Pay attention to your thoughts - catch the downward spiral before it begins.
This is where the fun really begins, now that we are more aware of our thoughts, it's time to start catching ourselves. Start to pay attention to your thoughts, instead of focusing on whether they were positive or negative instead focus on whether they are helping or hindering your recovery. When you find yourself thinking things that are keeping you stuck that's the time to step in and take hold, get yourself out of the funk. Remember sometimes it's okay to think negative thoughts, but it's when it starts to hinder your recovery that you have a problem. The more you pay attention to your thoughts the better you will get at stopping the hindering thought patterns before they take hold.
There you have my top 5 tips for working on your mindset, and why I believe this is the first step you should take in healing from CFS
I would love to hear from you. What has been your first step to healing CFS?