Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can be difficult to understand. It’s an “invisible illness” that tends to draw skepticism or outright disbelief. As such, people with this condition may face social stigma, which can lead to depression.
Scientists have yet to discover what causes CFS. But so far, the research found that some people are at a higher risk of contracting the illness. Women are four times more likely to develop it than men, according to the CDC.
Many people with CFS aren’t also aware that they’ve got it. An estimated 84% to 91% of affected individuals are undiagnosed. But CFS is hard to diagnose. Doctors have to rule out a number of other diseases first, including anemia, an underactive thyroid, and sleep disorders, before diagnosing CFS.
Living with this condition changes your life drastically. You may find even the simplest task impossible to perform. Your symptoms may affect your entire mobility and career as well. But you’ll also experience better days, wherein you’re more energetic. When you’re having one of those days, make the most of out by engaging in any of these activities:
1. Slow Exercises
It’s crucial to keep moving to maintain your strength and activeness. Walk regularly, stretch, and do some light strength training. Don’t push yourself hard, because you may crash and fall into relapse.
Aim for a minute of activity, followed by three minutes of rest. Divide your exercises into several sessions a day. Consider these routines:
- Hand stretching
- Sitting and standing
- Bodyweight exercises (e.g. wall push-ups)
- Picking up and grasping objects
Doing eight repetitions of these routines is a workable goal. But if you’re only starting out, aim for two to four repetitions until you can do eight.
Once you feel your stamina improving, increase the length of your exercises further. Add an extra one to five minutes of physical activity per week. But don’t eliminate your 3-minute resting period. If your exercises trigger your symptoms, change your routines into slower ones.
Isometric yoga, a routine that lets you stay in a stationary position all throughout, may work for you. The movements are mostly flexing of the muscles while maintaining a position. The routine consists of six poses, but you may skip some or do fewer repetitions if you must.
Researches found that yoga appeared to significantly reduce fatigue. Many of their participants reported feeling lighter and warmer after the routine. So if regular workouts are too much for you, try isometric yoga, while being guided by an instructor.
3. Food Prep
A healthy diet will also help you manage your symptoms. Consume food rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These healthy fats keep your energy levels up and let you maintain a healthy weight.
Try a Mediterranean diet, which many people with CFS found helpful. The diet is primarily of plant-based food, with little red meat, moderate eggs, cheese, yogurt, and poultry, and no sugary drinks, added sugars, processed meats, and highly-processed food.
Make meals with vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, tubers, and whole grains. Fish and seafood, especially omega-3-rich and protein-rich ones are essential in your meals, too. Add flavors to your dishes using herbs and spices, such as garlic, rosemary, basil, sage, nutmeg, etc.
Consume smaller meals to prevent nausea. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as well, because those may affect your energy.
4. Memory Games
CFS may also affect your memory, so keep it sharp by using a planner or writing down reminders on a sticky note. And to boost your memory, even more, play memory games. Choose among puzzles, word games, and card games. Many of those can be downloaded on your phone for free, or played physically with your family or friends.
5. Read Books
To understand your condition more, read educational and inspirational books about it, such as CFS Unravelled. The book is filled with real-life recovery stories, which will help you stay positive.
If your symptoms make reading difficult for you, know that you are not alone. People with CFS can also experience vision-related reading difficulty, which affects their acuity. In this case, try audiobooks or picture books. Keeping your senses engaged is important in managing your symptoms and feeling healthier.
Reading may also help you get through difficult days, such as when you can’t get out of bed. It will also improve your brain function, including your memory. So when any type of movement drains you, turn to your books.
Scientists haven’t yet found a specific treatment that will treat CFS, but lifestyle changes will help you recover. Behavioral changes will do wonders as well. So treat your body and mind with love, and remember that your condition doesn’t define your worth. Stay positive, focus on what your body can do, and your path to recovery will brighten.