Thanks to How to Cope with Pain for including this post as part of their Pain Blog Carnival! To read all of the selected posts, please click HERE.
Dr. Bruce Campbell, PhD, a ME/CFS patient, said a woman with ME/CFS motivates herself when discouraged by aiming for a 1% improvement in some part of her life. By thinking small, Dr. Campbell believes she discovered the secret for getting better with these illnesses.
When you have ME/CFS and/or FM, lifestyle change is a must and in order to cope and deal with them, you have to make changes. Dr. Campbells says:
Very few people hit home runs with these conditions. The chances are low of finding something to quickly restore your old life. Most experts agree: the most powerful treatment for both conditions is lifestyle change, which means changing our habits and how we live our daily lives. This is a gradual process, but over time can be transforming. Hitting a lot of singles doesn’t grab the headlines, but in the game of living with CFS or FM, it’s a winning strategy.
I have personally found that dealing with the grief and accepting that I will never be the same again and be able to do the same amount of activity as I once did has improved my physical and mental health – particularly my mental health. We need to move through the grief process, but I have known chronically ill people to get stuck in the grief cycle and continue to wallow in what once was. They will cry and break down when they can’t accomplish a task that was once easy for them and they are still at this point after being sick for years. I’m not a doctor, but to me the first tip with coping with chronic illness should be to learn to accept and move on. But here are Dr. Campbell’s seven tips for coping.
Take planned rests. Setting aside time every day for rest breaks can help reduce symptoms, increase stability and, ironically, reduce total rest time. If you would like to try planned rest, set aside one or more times a day and find a quiet place where you can lie down with your eyes closed. Be willing to make time for yourself and do this! You are worth it!
Get support from fellow patients. Serious illness is isolating and discouraging. Being in contact with fellow patients counteracts isolation and can offer inspiration, encouragement and practical coping strategies. Join a local support group or an online support group.
Identify what helps and what works. Through self-observation, you can discover what intensifies your symptoms and what helps you to feel better. Then, over time, you can adjust your life so you do less of the things that make you worse and more of those things that help. Dr. Campbell recommends making two lists: one list for things that make your symptoms worse; one list for things that give you a sense of control.
Ask: What can I do today? Change starts with a single step. Ask yourself: What is one small thing I can do today for my health? The idea is to focus on a goal that is both specific and realistic, maximizing your chances for success.
Do a “should” review. Do you feel guilty about all the things you think you should do but aren’t doing? It’s a common problem for people with CFS and FM. Illness limits what we can do, but often we are slow to adjust our expectations to fit our reduced abilities. One solution: do a reality check on your expectations.
Start a health log/journal. Written records are a powerful tool for discovering what makes illness worse and what helps you feel better. With a few minutes a day of writing, plus some time spent periodically reviewing the records, you can see patterns and discover the many different factors that contribute to symptoms.
Identify what triggers a relapse. Relapses are a common and often demoralizing part of CFS and FM, but it’s possible to reduce their frequency and severity. One place to start is by identifying those things that trigger setbacks. These factors could be actions you take, or events that happen to you. Then you can work at reducing the frequency and severity of setbacks.