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Life is tough sometimes, but it’s especially tough if you wake up every day with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
As a condition that mostly affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, CFS can seem like an extra burden on top of all the other physical troubles of aging. Plus, most people don’t understand why you feel this way, choosing instead to blame your lifestyle or attitude.
To makes things worse, not much is known about CFS. There are no established underlying causes of the condition, and it affects everyone differently. This makes it difficult to treat since no two people respond the same way to a therapy program.
Having a chronic condition is not your fault. There are steps you can take to make things better for yourself, if only slightly. In this blog, we’ll talk about why you may suffer from CFS and what to try next.
The brain and central nervous system don’t always seem to make sense. Why would physical pain be a response to neurological stress? If the body needs to be active in order to be healthy, why would it hinder its own ability to get the blood flowing?
Fatigue is one of the ways your body deals with trauma. By keeping the body immobilized, it ensures that whatever dangerous situation put you here never happens again.
That’s why it’s pointless to tell someone to “just get over it” when it comes to CFS—their body did this to protect them, and recovering from the condition takes more than a wish to get better.
In The Body Keeps Score, Bessel A. van der Kolk suggests that approaching your body with curiosity can help to shift it away from pain and fatigue. One such approach to CFS, known as pacing, asks patients to observe and take notes about when they start to feel more pain.
This approach helps people to take baby steps toward more activity without triggering postexertional malaise (PEM)—a symptom that results in restlessness and problems with memory.
CFS is more than just a physical condition—it occurs when the brain sends signals to shut the body down in the face of stress and trauma. Knowing what triggers the fatigue could be one way for you to understand what makes your symptoms worse.
No list of treatments is complete without talking about what goes into the body and how the energy is spent. What you eat affects how you feel. This could be why people in poverty face a higher risk of depression—they can’t afford healthy food options. Health problems triggered by a bad diet then kick start a vicious cycle of stress and frustration, worsening CFS symptoms.
How frustrating is that?!
Getting out of the house is crucial in dealing with CFS. Unless you get your blood pumping—even just a little bit—you’re likely to remain stuck in the cycle of fatigue and frustration. However you do it, try to walk out the front door at least twice a day (and even that is tough during COVID-19).
Can’t bring yourself to go outside? Consider adopting an emotional support animal. When the choice is between taking a walk or cleaning up dog pee, it’s a little easier to get some sunshine in your day. And of course, having a pet is amazing.
If going outside proves more than you can handle (don’t worry—we’ve all been there), there are ways to move while inside your home. Yoga is a relaxing, effective way to use your body and take some deep breaths. Consider learning the primary series and running through it a couple of times each day.
Remember, even trying to exercise is a huge step in the right direction. Be proud of yourself for giving it a shot. You don’t have to become an expert yogi, and if you miss a day, who cares? Baby steps are worth a pat on the back.
So you changed your diet and started exercising more, but nothing improved. It happens. CFS strikes at the darndest times, and dealing with it feels hopeless sometimes. Thankfully, there are other treatments that don’t require you to lift a finger (except the part where you take the treatment).
Medicine can be a great way to suppress and inhibit parts of the brain that cause CFS. While this may not lead to recovery, it can help you feel a little better.
Even a small improvement is sometimes enough to help you try one more time. However, there are currently no FDA-approved treatments for CFS, meaning that no single medication has proven to be reliably effective.
One safe remedy worth trying is cannabidiol (CBD). While there are no conclusive studies proving that CBD cures CFS, research has shown promising results about CBD’s effectiveness in treating migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS.
Wellness tinctures like this one may be able to help control your fatigue, develop an appetite, and get outside more. Some people keep CBD vape pens on them so that if they start having symptoms, they have a quick dose of medicine ready to curb the problem.
CBD is non-addictive, non-toxic, and it’s a chemical that is already produced by your body’s own endocannabinoid system. If you want something easy to try, CBD is a great place to start.
Talk with a psychiatrist about taking an antidepressant. If you’re worried about taking medication, you are not alone. Many people fear altering their brain’s chemistry, and it’s easy to understand why.
The good news is that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be administered on a gradual scale. Start with a tiny dose that barely affects your brain before moving toward a more substantial dose, where you will feel the therapeutic effects of the drug.
Some would argue that you don’t need antidepressants, but your choice about it is not theirs to make. There are stigma and myths around the potential side effects of taking a mood-altering medication, but much of it is exaggerated and overblown.
If diet and exercise aren’t helping, antidepressant medication is an option worthy of your consideration.
Recovery from CFS is a long journey. Many patients attend counseling sessions as a way to vent their frustrations in a safe environment, with someone who can help them identify an underlying cause. We commend that.
Taking steps toward recovery can feel like a monumental obstacle sometimes, and it takes courage to move forward.
Should you choose to try a supplement like CBD first, be sure to purchase high-quality products from a reputable vendor. This will ensure that the supplements you take will work as intended.
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