How to Feel Better When Living With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is tough. Sometimes you just need to feel better…but do you know how?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is a debilitating condition that will significantly lower your quality of life. If you are living with CFS, you know how hard it is to just get through the day. The pain is sometimes so severe that it's difficult to get out of bed. However, some strategies and solutions can help you feel better when living with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
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What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Where does it come from?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a disorder characterized by extreme and debilitating fatigue that's not relieved by rest and has no known cause. The term "chronic" means the fatigue lasts for at least six months, and "syndrome" indicates a set of symptoms that occur together. It's also called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or ME.
CFS is more than just feeling tired – it affects many aspects of your life. You may have problems sleeping because you feel so tired during the day, or you may have pain all over your body when you move around too much. You may also find that simple things like getting dressed in the morning are exhausting because your muscles ache so much. The symptoms of CFS, which can range from mild to severe, are similar to those of other conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but common ones include:
1. Feeling as if you need to sleep for over 12 hours each day or night
2. Unintentional weight loss
3. Pain all over the body
5. Difficulty concentrating on tasks or remembering information
6. Unexplained muscle or joint pain
7. Tender lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, and groin area of the body
8. Flu-like symptoms, like fever, swollen glands, and sore throat
The exact cause of CFS isn't known, but there are many theories about how it develops. Some researchers think it's caused by a virus that infects your nervous system. Others think it has something to do with the immune system — the part of your body that fights infections and diseases. Some people may have an inherited susceptibility to CFS, but no one knows for sure.
CFS can affect anyone at any age, but it's most common in teenagers and young adults between 15 and 40 years old. In rare cases, children can be affected by CFS too.
What triggers Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Although the exact cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is unknown, it is believed to be related to a combination of infections, environmental factors, and genetics.
The most common triggers for CFS include:
1. Infections like mononucleosis or Lyme disease
2. Viral infections such as influenza or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
3. Bacterial infections such as strep throat or an abscessed tooth
4. Chemicals in your environment like pesticides or cleaning products
5. Emotional stressors like trauma or abuse
6. Airborne hazards exposure during military service
How to feel better when living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
It's important to understand what triggers your symptoms so that you can avoid those triggers as much as possible. For example, if you know that certain foods or activities make you feel worse, then it's best to avoid them when possible.
Although there is no cure for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, in addition to avoiding triggers, there are other things you can do to help manage your symptoms:
Learn as much as you can about CFS/ME – this is the first step that you can take when you want to manage your CFS symptoms. The more you know about your condition and specific symptoms that you have, the better and more focused your approach could be, and therefore, you can achieve better results as well.
2. Get enough sleep
Sleep is a key factor in managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Your body needs rest so that it can repair itself after a long day. If you're not getting enough sleep each night, there are some things that you can do to improve your sleep quality. For example, try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. This will help keep your body on a schedule so it knows when it should be tired or alert during the day. Or, take naps during the day if you need them (but don't exceed 20 minutes). This can help give your body energy again after being awake. If you want to know more ways to help you get better sleep, read my post about the Best Home Remedies for Insomnia.
3. Exercise at your pace
Only you know how much exercise you can tolerate. Even when you feel pain, exercising helps your bones to stay healthy and avoid future problems with them, like osteoporosis. Exercising also gives you a boost of energy and helps you maintain a healthy weight. And it is a way to release stress. Remember to avoid overexercising, so get involved in low-intensity exercise activities like walking, yoga, or warm-water exercise.
4. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies
Following a healthy diet is good for everyone, but when you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the last you want to do is eat food that can cause you inflammation and therefore, more pain. Include foods rich in antioxidants in your diet. Read my post about 7 Anti-inflammatory Foods to Help You Boost Your Health and Reduce Pain, and start taking the advantage of it.
5. Get hydrated
Our body needs water to eliminate toxins and waste products through the urine. By keeping yourself hydrated, you help your body to get rid of unwanted chemicals, and considering that 70-75% of your muscle mass is water; it is even more important in your case. Why is that? Because as a result of the fatigue and pain of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, people stay inactive and cannot exercise to the intensity needed to build muscle mass. Therefore, muscle mass is lost and with it, water is also lost. I discuss the best way of hydration in my post, Which One Is The Best for Your Health and Hydration? Water versus Sports Drinks.
6. Consider keeping a journal
Writing offers therapeutic benefits. Starting a journal can help you manage the mental health symptoms associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It also allows you to track how you feel, the intensity of your pain, your triggers, etc. That way, it will be easier for you and your healthcare provider to know what needs more attention. Check this post, Do You Know The Health Benefits of Writing? Start With These Simple Questions, to learn more about the health benefits of writing and how to start journaling.
7. Listen to your body and take breaks when needed
Do not push yourself. Trying to do more than you can do, can work against you. Instead, divide your tasks into chunks of time, taking breaks to rest between them.
8. Create a routine
Plan your day so that you're not constantly pushing yourself. When you create a routine, you get organized, and it will relieve the constant stress of living without knowing what to do next. Get yourself an agenda and start putting in writing and organizing what you need to do.
9. Ask for help when you need it
You are not Superman or Wonder Woman. If you need help, ask, and use the resources that you have available.
10. Try not to sweat the small stuff
Put your energy on those things that will help you get better. Worrying about what you cannot change or control does not add any positive values to the equation.
11. Find something to make you laugh every day
Make your days enjoyable. Laughing has many health benefits. Read the post Laugh to Heal: The Free Fun and Easy to Use Medicine, to get more details on how laughing daily can be a way to help you feel better, and start making your days more pleasant when living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
12. Build a support system of family and friends around you
Your friends and family's understanding will help you more than their opinions or pieces of advice. Having someone to talk to without judging you is beneficial because it helps you release stress and frustration about your CFS.
13. Find a medical provider
Find a medical provider who understands Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and that is willing to work with you. Finding a provider that can help you through this process is crucial to managing your symptoms. And if you don’t feel comfortable with the one that you have, keep looking. At the end of the day, CFS is a long-term illness, so you would prefer to see someone that makes you feel comfortable.
This last one is for men and women that served in the armed forces:
14. Get help from the VA
The effects of exposure to toxins during deployment have been shown in studies. If you are a US Veteran with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, that was exposed to airborne hazards during your military service, contact your local Veterans Benefits Administration office for additional information about healthcare and disability claim benefits you might be eligible for.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in severity and may come and go throughout your life. Although there is no cure, the good news is that there is treatment available to help relieve some of the symptoms. In addition, there are other things that you can do to manage your CFS, like exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet. The takeaway: living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome means making changes to your lifestyle to manage your symptoms well.
If you find this post helpful, leave a comment below. And as always, follow a healthy lifestyle and come back for the next topic.
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