Can you imagine feeling chronically fatigued day-in and day-out for weeks on end? Unfortunately, this is not an exaggeration for those who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This disorder is no joke and more common than you may think. It is most relevant in women in their 40s and 50s, but anyone can have it, and it can last for years.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is defined as, “severe, continued tiredness that is not relieved by rest and not directly caused by other medical conditions.” The cause is unknown, but certain variables may influence its development, such as age, stress, previous illnesses, genetics and environmental factors. Symptoms include extreme tiredness that lasts at least six months and is not relieved by rest. Additional symptoms include forgetfulness, concentration problems, irritability, mild fever, joint pain without swelling or redness, confusion, muscle aches and weakness, feeling unrested after sleep, tiredness 24 hours after low-intensity exercise, sore throat, sore lymph nodes under the arms and in the neck, and headaches that differ from those experienced in the past. There are no specific tests to diagnose CFS, but your doctor may be able to diagnose it after ruling out other possible causes of fatigue. If you’ve been experiencing extreme tiredness for at least six months, please talk to your health care provider about your symptoms.
Meanwhile, if you suffer from CFS or experience fatigue on a regularly basis, consider the following tips:
- Accept where you’re at with your health: pretending as if you’re okay and pushing forward, despite the way you feel, is not going to help you recover. Realize that you may need to make some lifestyle changes and scale things back to feel better.
- Tone down your activities: learn to manage your lifestyle better and don’t be afraid to say no. Remember, sometimes doing less is more, especially when you’re not feeling well.
- Remember, you are what you eat and what you eat eats: food is your fuel and the way you look, feel and perform is dependent upon what you put inside your body. Always nourish yourself with whole unprocessed foods and pay attention to where your food comes from. Opt for a diet that is low in pro-inflammatory foods (for example, avoid things like refined sugars and vegetable oils) and if you eat meat, choose grass-fed and pasture-raised whenever possible because the animal’s diet directly impacts you and your health as well.
- Pick a positive attitude: you have the choice whether to make something negative or positive, and choosing a positive attitude will take you a whole lot further. Learn to adapt your thought processes from bad to good, no matter what the situation. You’ll be surprised how much it helps and how much better you feel. Being a victim and complaining will only make you feel worse.
- Make yourself relax: always make sure to carve out some time for you, whether it’s going for a walk, sitting down with a book, getting a massage, meditating and so forth. Remember, you are worth it, and you don’t need to be an over-achiever all the time.
- Be grateful: practicing gratitude goes a long way. Instead of dwelling on what you don’t have, focus on what you do. If it helps, make a list of at least 10 things you’re grateful for each week. You’ll be surprised how much good you have in your life.
- Exercise: moving your body in ways that it’s suppose to move benefits you both physically and mentally. Our bodies are machines and were designed for movement, so take advantage of it and keep your “machine” in check. You don’t have to go all out and do high-intensity exercise to reap the benefits either. Slow, low-intensity exercise and steady increments will prevent you from crashing and burning.
- Seek support: healing and self-recovery is hard, and it is okay and expected to feel sad at times. Seek the support of family, friends and loved ones during these times especially, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talking to someone can ease emotional stress and take some weight off your shoulders.
- Be patient: healing and improvement takes time, and cannot be done overnight. Realize how long it took you to get to this point and know that undoing the process may take just as long or longer. Rather than rush the process with only the end goal in sight, remember to slow down and enjoy the journey.
- Set realistic goals: set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable and realistic. Start by setting small goals and commit to them. This will guide you and help keep you focused on your priority to improved health.