In the past months I have spoken and emailed a lot with people who are having ME/CFS. Helping others who have this condition is something I consider to be very important. I couldn’t believe that I have to urge most people to properly rest. So many of you guys have restless minds and smartphone addictions. I get it, once you get ME/CFS you are in the ‘fight or flight mode’ and you can’t get out of it anymore. After a while you might even forget what real rest feels like. While you are in the fight or flight mode you normally feel agitated and in need of constant stimulation. The mind is restless because you are in a survival mode. I know it’s hard to resist that smartphone, when your phone is the only way you can communicate with the outside world. Nevertheless, your phone is making you feel even more agitated. It is enhancing your vicious cycle. There is so much you can be distracted by, that after a while you have forgotten the reason you went on your phone in the first place.
In ME/CFS we experience a misbalance in the nervous system. To simplify the nervous system there is the fight or flight mode and the rest and digest mode. When these modes are balanced we are in homeostasis. The imbalance is putting pressure on your nervous system and affects almost all bodily processes and thus your symptoms. To balance the nervous system we don’t need to rest all the time, we also need to be active in meaningful activities and rest properly. Unfortunately most people with ME/CFS have forgotten how to properly rest.
‘Rest and digest mode’
Whenever I am experiencing a relapse, it is because I am not properly resting between activities. Watching a movie, YouTube movies, or having a restless mind is all activating the ‘fight or flight mode’. Instead we need to do mindfulness, meditation and maybe take a nap during the day. When you really commit to this, you will feel more present wherever you are and a peace will eventually fall over you. That is called the ‘rest and digest mode’ or in other words, the parasympathetic nervous system. This state is usually going to give you a (small) relief of symptoms. Often when I don’t feel well, and I am struggling to make it through the day, I am surprised by the effects of only half an hour of proper rest. I will start to feel sleepy instead of drained and after a while I will have new energy to start with a meaningful activity. And when I do a meditation before I go to sleep or take a warm bath (without distraction) I have a much more restful sleep and feel much better the next day.
Sometimes we think we are resting, but we are still engaging in restless thinking or our devices. Resting properly means to lower your heart-rate. When you feel wired and you are in bed distracting yourself from your symptoms with a mobile phone, your heart-rate can still be +/- 110 bpm. The better you can lower this, the better you will feel.
Changing your stressful personality
To surrender to the resting process takes a character change, as our stressed personalities have to be stopped and forced to rest. In my coaching sessions I often talk with people who don’t want to give up their phone and think about addictions. Some don’t have enough energy to take a shower, yet the energy they have is wasted on their destructive addictions. I often wonder why these people contact me. Many of them hob over to an alternative treatment form. A form where they can be the patient and wait for their symptoms to disappear. Of Course I wish them well, but at the same time, I am seeing that they are delaying their recovery. If you speak to people who have recovered, they are all saying the same things. It takes a change of personality and the devotion to properly rest. The stressors in our lives may come from different things, for some it’s emotional, for others more food related and for others it’s everything combined. Changing the diet is the easiest change you can make, yet it rarely helps someone completely.
The fight or flight mode causes a vicious cycle
After a while the symptoms you are experiencing are the main cause of stress, that stress keeps the body in the fight or flight mode. If someone like me tells you to rest properly, it is not easy to follow up, as your body is telling you to run away from a tiger. So you might run to an alternative treatment and put your faith in someone else. You will rarely have success with this as your body remains in the ‘fight or flight mode’.
When I relearned to rest properly, it felt like something new. Something I had long forgotten. My mind wanted to be a part of it, yet whenever it tried to do so, I lost it again. So I had to learn to give up my identification with my thinking mind. That didn’t mean I was ready to heal at all, because now the original stressors that had caused ME/CFS were slowly being revealed. My personality needed a big change as everything I ever did was based on stress, either compensating, running away or surrendering to old emotional wounds caused me to have a complex personality that was the cause of this neurological condition in the first place. I often get the question if I am back to my old health again. And the answer is a clear ‘NO!’ That old Daniel has made and kept me sick for many years. I have to learn to forgive myself and to be kind to myself.
As you might understand, recovery is a journey! Start resting properly!