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THE BIG B: BALANCE
CRITICAL WITH CHRONIC FATIGE SYNDROME

Barbara Pino, BA, MA, MFCC

Balance is a lifestyle that is not supported by our society. With fast food and workaholism on the rise, is it any wonder that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) patients find it difficult to preserve balance? Maintaining balance has resulted in symptom improvement, work capability, and a fulfilling life. There are a number of areas in which balance and lifestyle changes play a key role.

Mind/Body

The mind/body connection is the substance of the growing field of psychoneuroimmunology, a realm increasingly explored in the area of immune system problems. Once ill, people find it critical to tune into their bodies for limits on activities. This means stopping when "the fog" sets in or when feeling tired, no matter what. Sometimes the mind and body have different desires. Part of the skill of healing is allowing the mind to be stimulated within the limits of the body.

Brain

People with CFS frequently experience cognitive problems. Sometimes people find it helpful to utilize another part of the brain and then return to the more difficult thinking task. For instance with logical thinking, shifting to creative thinking activities and then dipping into the logical thinking for short periods seems to work for many. Rehabilitation is easier if the difficult thinking task is performed for a short period of time, and is slowly increased.

Stimulation

Frequently one area is repeatedly stimulated and a feeling of balance can be achieved by changing the stimulation (e.g., serious/humorous, work/play, giving/receiving, creating/take in information, talking/listening, etc.). This can also apply to the senses (seeing, hearing, touch, taste, smell).

Exercise

Exercise balance can only be achieved by listening to the body. Having exercise options for good days and bad days can be helpful. Sometimes walking around the room a few times or stretching and breathing deeply is plenty.

Emotions

People report that when healthy, they were able to handle anything emotionally. However after CFS, they feel anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, and moody. Accepting feelings and responding to the need is the skill in this area:

 

Overwhelmed/moody - This can sometimes be a signal that intensity needs to be reduced. This is a common need because of the organism's sensitivity with CFS.
Anxious/stressed - Addressing the concern and considering the CFS limitations help cope with reality. Focusing on what IS known and what CAN be done in the present is helpful. Concentrating on one thing at a time can quickly reduce stress and simplify projects.
Sad - With the multiple losses and disappointments experienced during CFS, sadness can be a familiar feeling. It is comforting to know that deeply expressing the emotion (e.g., crying, talking, writing, etc.) helps move through the pain and heal it.
Depressed/Angry - Depression or anger occur if we don't believe our needs are going to be met. Developing concrete plans to make sure all needs are met helps. Anger also happens when a person is hurt. Processing the feelings and taking action to prevent similar hurts can be an important part of healing.

Relationships

With the onset of CFS, many "givers" find there is little ability to give to someone else. Alarmingly, receiving from others becomes necessary and strong feelings of neediness emerge. This change can create problems in both friend and family relationships. Part of developing support systems is balancing the give and take within existing relationships as well as adding friendships which are nurturing. At some point in their CFS journey, most want to strengthen their spiritual connection. Balancing the day so that there is quiet time for this Relationship can be a gratifying shift.

Creating a Lifestyle

Some thoughts which support making lifestyle modifications are:

 

People who have improved and recovered have experienced lifestyle changes. (I have found no exceptions to this.)
Whatever I am stopping now is less important than getting well.
I can follow my pacing and timing and still succeed.
I can choose the lifestyle changes which work for me.

Some find it helpful to read these when motivation is down or the old habit is looming. Finding what works in the "new way" makes the new behavior "stick." It is then possible to make the new behavior part of a healing lifestyle. Building on this little by little can result in substantial changes.

5/28/98

 

Barbara Pino, MA, MFCC, is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Diego, California. Having recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after four years of disability, she specializes in working with immune system issues. Ms. Pino is a CFS resource contact person in San Diego and regularly writes and lectures to promote education in the area of immune system problems. For more information on CFS, please call her at: The Life Strategy Center (619) 295-9313 or contact The CFIDS Association of America, Inc. (800) 442-3437.

 

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