In a crazy confluence of signs I keep coming across the idea to meditate. My new doctor suggested it, it is in the research, it is recommended by a few new websites I have found and I have recently found Beat Fatigue with Yoga by Fiona Agombar.
This book begins by explaining what causes fatigue, goes into an introduction to yoga and the “eight limbs”, provides many yoga poses for practice and concludes with suggested routines according to the level of fatigue. Agombar’s own story is included at the end, she writes of her struggle with ME/CFS and how she used yoga to be well.
In seeing the recommendations for those with “moderate CFS” I have come to realise that I had been attempting too strenuous a yoga routine for my new state. I have had to admit that during pregnancy, and even now, I have to consider my CFS more moderate than mild. This irks me, but gives me a good place to build on for my yoga work.
I don’t buy into the spiritual aspect of yoga. But I do, wholeheartedly, get the idea of bodily balance, chemical upheaval and the natural rhythm of the body. Having an overactive nervous system, yoga calms me. My body tends to react positively to the physical poses and, pre pregnancy, I was pleased with how far I had advanced in my practice.
Because of this book, I decided that my second Tiny Mission (which I will write about as I see results) would be to do Total Relaxation Pose daily as a gateway to meditation. For about three days, I did this faithfully, on the fourth day I forgot and on the fifth I went a step further and did a guided relaxation for 15 minutes. It was bliss! I felt so nice afterwards! It is my hope that I shall build relaxation/meditation into my daily routine.
This book seems to be a great introduction to doing yoga for those with fatigue issues, I’d recommend it as a nice place to start because yoga can be adapted for most people, but it is great to be written by someone who understands CFS and post exertional malaise.
This is an older post that shares how I accidentally fell in love with meditation which became a foundational aspect to my healing.
Since the the seismic shift of moving cities to take on a 3/4 time role, I have taken tiny steps to improve my life.
Now that I’m seriously pursuing the next stage of my mission to reduce my fibro/CFS symptoms, and in order to track what makes a difference and to fit it into a busy life, I’m going to try some experiments.
In mid-January I added D-Ribose powder to my morning and evening routine, when I take magnesium.
As of the last week of January, I added total relaxation pose (aka corpse pose) for 10 minutes a day as a gentle introduction to meditation, and a gentle reintroduction to yoga.
For the first three days I did this faithfully. On the fourth day I forgot. On the fifth, I jumped right in and did a 15 minute guided relaxation called Yoga Nidra, it was bliss! I noted, as I walked the dog about an hour afterward, that my neck felt “nice” (meaning, the absence of pain). It didn’t last very long, but I liked it.
I then found Yoga Nidra free downloads with longer sessions. So I have a 50 minute, a 40 minute, a 15 minute one and a new mother’s one from a CD.
Having the meditation to look forward to has helped me cope with the day much better. I haven’t noticed a difference in energy levels, but it is nice to have something to look forward to when all I want to do is sleep (I can’t nap due to the medicine I take to help me sleep at night). Having my body in total rest for that time and for my brain to be switched off is a nice reprieve from myself.
Now that I have started I don’t know how I haven’t always done it!
We all know the recommended steps for being well- eat healthily, exercise moderately and get plenty of sleep. I believe that people with Fibromyalgia need to adhere to the healthy living guidelines, augmented to their ability level, of course. But what happens if no matter what you do, you are exhausted and sore? There’s no escaping it, you have to do the work.
Here’s the five lifestyle choices I make daily to cope with Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue:
1. Healthy eating
Food is fuel, right? Everyone should eat healthily with a diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables and rich in whole grains and protein. When you are battling extreme fatigue and travelling muscle aches, what you eat can be of great help.
In my worst flair ups, my food diary used to become a love song to carbohydrates. I subconsciously craved fuel that my body could turn into energy; unfortunately, all those carbohydrates created the opposite effect. My already exhausted system was battling its way through the simple and complex carbohydrates I was throwing at it every few hours – it had no time to create energy. It took a few days of concentrated effort, but once I replaced a few of these servings with other foods, I began to feel the effects.
For me, eating a moderate diet rich in fruit and vegetables is a good start. Some people swear by Paleo, or Keto or gluten free or some such diet – it’s all worth a try.
Unless your doctor forbids it due to a medical condition, you should be exercising. A person with Fibromyalgia will work at a lower intensity and for a shorter period, but they should still exercise.
The amount of energy I have fluctuates, depending on many things, but I always go for my walk with my dog. Sometimes it is only around a 15-minute block, other times I will go for a course with a decent hill or will walk for a little longer. I have found 25-30 minutes to be ideal for me. I am always treading the fine line between proper muscle exhaustion and pain. This can be hard to monitor with constantly changing goalposts like fatigue and pain levels, but after two years, I have worked up to my current level.
Pilates is my favourite form of resistance exercise. I have done it faithfully for about ten years. Sometimes I operate at a beginner level and other times I can advance the exercises. When I was starting again after a bout of extreme pain, my physiotherapist created a 20-minute programme for me to follow. With my experience, I was able to advance the exercises as my energy levels allowed.
I have found it very important to keep the strength in my muscles with gentle activation. There is a strong correlation between less exercise and more pain.
3. A compassionate, knowledgeable physical practitioner
My physiotherapist is a valuable component of my healthy life. Someone you trust, who knows about Fibromyalgia and can bring about lasting changes with their treatments is vital to coping with long-term pain and fatigue. Someone who can come alongside you and take the burden of your body, even if only for half an hour is great for physical and emotional health.
My physiotherapist is the only person I can speak candidly to about what I have been coping with for the last 7-14 days (depending on how long I can stretch out the periods between treatment). After trying many of the different types of therapies, I have found acupuncture to be (one of) the least invasive and longest-lasting treatment.
Sleep is my hardest battle. A full night’s sleep is the best way to cope with life. I try to go to bed around the same time every night and have a set routine that involves getting ready and reading before I switch off the light. I also try to get up around the same time every day. This helps, but I will not always sleep through the night, I will not always fall asleep straight away and I will often wake up at 4am (or every hour or two) with an incredibly stiff and sore neck. Since I began Low Dose Naltrexone in 2017, I have finally managed to sleep in blocks of more than an hour! I don’t sleep through the night, but I do sleep much better and this has flow on effects.
In order to cope on days when the kids have had me up in the night or the fatigue is just worse, meditation is a go-to. I can’t nap, so meditation is a way to get decent rest when I need it.
5. Aplan for the “hard” days
These are inevitable. Everybody gets sick from time to time. A person with Fibromyalgia will have some harder days. I have found a written list with suggestions for what to do on one of these days to be useful for pulling me out of the downward spiral of panic that accompanies intense pain.
Specific stretches for my neck (tightness in my neck often causes headaches, nausea, dizziness and extreme fatigue)
Things I can do in descending order of ability (a gentle walk, gentle stretches, watch a DVD, read, lie down with an audio book on, lie down and do nothing else)
A reminder of the pain relief options I have at my disposal (wheat pack, icepack, heat cream, Ibuprofen, prescribed pain killers) – you would be surprised at how often I forget these things exist in the grips of serious pain.
All of these ways for coping should be underpinned by hope. Hope that your “hard” days will occur less often. And hope that you will be able to compile a life that is heading towards wellness, rather than just away from sickness. This is what I have experienced over the past two years as I have found more to help, particularly the low dose naltrexone, and it is what I hope for you too.