9 Steps to Overcoming Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Feel better, cope better, and reclaim your life with these nine steps to overcoming chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Lots of people have asked me how to recover from chronic fatigue as they aren’t getting the answers they need from their doctors. Having been a wellness life coach for over twenty years who has personally battled with chronic fatigue for over ten years, I’ve written a series of blogs sharing what helped me recover. You can check these all out here. Please note I am not a doctor and this post is not intended to provide medical advice.
You may want to first check out my blog What is Chronic Fatigue?
1. Stop, rest, and take stock of where you are
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a genuine physical illness that needs time out to recover from. Unfortunately, there is no pharmaceutical quick cure for chronic fatigue. Many healthcare professionals are still unaware of the best way to ‘treat’ chronic fatigue and give outdated advice that can make symptoms worse.
I was dismissed by my GP who told me “We don’t know why so many women get tired.” He advised me to carry on with life and return only if my exhaustion persisted for a few weeks. His attitude and misguided advice made me question the illness I’d been struggling with for a couple of years which cost me dearly in terms of years of getting worse rather than better and the impact this had on my life and ability to work.
Culturally, many of us are also conditioned that being busy is commendable while time off for recuperation is self-indulgent or lazy. Ironically, it is precisely resting that frequently holds the key to recovering from chronic fatigue.
2. Take responsibility for overcoming chronic fatigue
Realising that my GP couldn’t provide relevant, current, or constructive advice on overcoming chronic fatigue, I embraced the role of becoming my own health advocate. If your doctor lacks relevant expertise and you aspire to get better and reclaim your life, taking personal ownership of your recovery becomes paramount.
This entails wholeheartedly dedicating yourself to the healing process, immersing yourself in the latest research and treatments, meticulously monitoring your symptoms and triggers, and discerning what aids or hinders your progress. Additionally, cultivating a recovery mindset and bolstering emotional resilience, making lifestyle changes, getting the support you need, and investing the requisite time and resources are all essential components of this journey.
- On a scale of 0-10, how committed am I to my recovery?
- How many hours a day do I spend doing activities that nurture my well-being?
- How many hours a day do I spend doing things that don’t aid my recovery or make me worse?
For a more in-depth exploration into personal leadership and responsibility check out my book, Heartatude: The 9 Principles to Heart-Centered Success.
3. Embrace a recovery mindset
Traversing the path to overcoming chronic fatigue demands a harmonious blend of unwavering faith in your recovery, continuous knowledge enrichment, and attuning to your body’s innate wisdom rather than yielding to ego-driven impulses. Regardless of your current phase of recovery, it’s likely that entrenched beliefs and habitual patterns could be sabotaging your health – such as harboring doubts about making a full recovery or succumbing to the temptation of prematurely setting recovery milestones or goals.
- What do I tell myself about my recovery?
- What do I tell others about my illness?
- How do my beliefs about recovery shape my actions each day?
4. Learn about the illness
There are many causes of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) and your experience of the illness is unique to you. You will experience your own blend of triggers, symptoms, and severity of the illness that will determine what treatments you will respond best to.
While there is no quick cure, there are many things you can do to feel better, cope better, and reclaim your health. Part of your recovery journey is discerning all pieces of your jigsaw. These include establishing why specifically you got ill, so you can work out the right interventions for you to overcome chronic fatigue.
Check out books I recommend on Chronic Fatigue <HERE>.
5. Get the right support
It is obviously important to go to your GP to rule out other serious illnesses. However, I’ve yet to meet anyone who has had a positive experience with the GP for the diagnosis or treatment of this illness. Most British GPs are not experts in chronic fatigue. Many still cling to antiquated medical guidelines that were exposed as flawed in 2022 as they exacerbated symptoms.
My own recovery took a pivotal turn after nine years of floundering when I started working with a functional medicine doctor, nutritionist, and other CFS specialists well-versed in cutting-edge scientific insights.
Sadly in the UK, this is rarely available on the NHS. If private health care isn’t feasible, a proactive approach to educating yourself on the condition is paramount so you can challenge and seek the right support through your GP. I’ve also found speaking to others with chronic fatigue, who are similarly proactive about their healing, really helpful. There are also some lower-cost solutions such as the online group course that’s available through the Optimum Health Clinic <HERE>.
6. Reduce stress
Prolonged stress is known to contribute to many critical illnesses prevalent in developed countries. In the realm of chronic fatigue, even the slightest stressors wield an outsized influence on your vitality, symptoms, and healing trajectory. Excessive stress exacerbates these effects and can trigger flare-ups. That’s why taking time to be in a calm healing emotional state as much of the time as possible is so important when you’ve got chronic fatigue.
By minimising your exposure to stressful situations, sleeping well, and letting go of negative emotions, you will help calm and regulate your body’s stress response and support your recovery. Techniques I’ve found helpful include breath work, meditation, yoga, EFT (tapping), mindfulness, theta healing, and being out in nature.
7. Fuel your body for optimal health
Nutrition assumes a central role in the path to overcoming chronic fatigue. It offers vital sustenance for the body’s revitalization and rejuvenation. Eating an array of unprocessed, whole foods including plant-based sources, antioxidants, protein, beneficial fats, and complex carbohydrates, you initiate a process that restores gut integrity, counters oxidative stress, fosters the regeneration of mitochondria, and maintains steady blood sugar levels – all integral components of health and longevity.
Optimal nutrition also aids equilibrium in hormonal and nervous systems, as well as fostering mental well-being throughout the recovery journey. Prioritizing a balanced, nutritious intake and eliminating detrimental elements from your diet holds the potential to significantly enhance cellular repair, bolster immune function, and amplify energy production.
Unsure where to start, read one of the books I recommend <HERE> or work with a nutritionist or functional medicine doctor who specialises in chronic fatigue. They will be able to carry out all sorts of tests to work out the changes for you to make to your diet.
Often making nutritional changes involves keeping a daily food diary. Doing this enables you to track your symptoms versus what you’re eating and drinking so you can identify what makes you better or worse. There is space for you to capture this in my range of Chronic Fatigue 90-Day Recovery Journals. Check them out <HERE>.
8. Limit and manage your energy
When you have chronic fatigue your energy supply is a bit like a faulty phone battery – you only have enough charge for a limited period of time. Once you’re out of charge that’s it until your body has recharged again. This can take days or weeks after periods of overexertion.
Tailoring your approach to activity is a critical ingredient to making a full recovery. Your activity spectrum is likely to vary – from being minimal during more severe bouts to the possibility of engaging in restorative practices such as yoga, gentle stretching, walking, driving, or work, as your symptoms alleviate and your recovery advances.
A core aspect of energy management during your recovery is setting a realistic baseline – an activity threshold you can maintain consistently without triggering a relapse or exacerbating your symptoms. This foundational baseline provides a stable platform from which you can incrementally expand by slowly “bouncing the boundaries.” This involves only increasing activities by a small amount and then waiting a few days to make sure you don’t relapse before repeating this higher-level activity. Doing this will enable you to make sustainable increases in your activity levels.
Personally, I’ve grappled with managing my energy effectively, struggling to reconcile my once-high activity level with a baseline of 3,000 steps (on good days). I’ve also faced setbacks due to pushing myself too far during moments of respite. Yet, through embracing acceptance, nurturing patience, and diligent practice you can get to a point it feels like you’re going in the right direction.
9. Journal your recovery
A recovery journal is a powerful tool that helps you consolidate your thoughts, feelings, and actions so you find it easier to identify factors that support or hinder your healing. The act of journaling can be therapeutic and empowering. It allows you to gain mental clarity, maintain focus, and develop self-awareness.
Referring back to your journal can be incredibly insightful and boost your motivation. Particularly during challenging times, when you feel discouraged or experience relapses and find yourself questioning whether you’re getting any better. Consistently gathering key information regularly also equips you with knowledge so you have better-informed conversations with your medical support team.
Having handmade healing journals over the years to capture all relevant information, I’ve designed a range of chronic fatigue recovery journals. These will help you track your progress, celebrate successes, and embrace your journey toward optimal recovery. Explore these empowering journals <HERE>.
What you do next matters
In the same way, others have made a full recovery from chronic fatigue, you can too.
Choose to believe it’s possible for you too and embrace these nine steps to optimise your recovery.
Your path to recovery is illuminated – become your own best advocate and embrace it wholeheartedly.
With love and gratitude,
Life Coach for Adventurous Midlife Women, Best-Selling Author & Speaker
Empowering you to enjoy a happy, adventurous life that lights up your heart and makes you feel proud
P.S. Have you checked out My Meaningful Life course yet? Find out more HERE.
Often described as one of the most authentic and inspiring souls you can meet, Alisoun is on a mission to make it easy for adventurous mid-life women to live their truth, do something that matters, and shine more brightly than they’ve ever done before.
Alisoun’s keynote talks, training, mentoring, and best-selling books Heartatude: The 9 Principles of Heart-Centered Success and Give-to-Profit: How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities and Social Causes have favorably changed the good fortune of thousands of people worldwide. Personally, Alisoun loves spending time with friends, exploring the world, and enjoying a quiet lifestyle by the beach in Scotland.
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- 101+ Ways to Create a Joyful Life of Meaning, Vitality, & Impact (download this HERE).
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