Before I got Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia, I felt invincible.
I was building my dream career as a PT, working the coolest job in the world at Platypus shoes and living the life in Newtown as a single girl. Between that and training like a beast at the gym, there was just no time to stop and relax. I thought my energy was never-ending. But how wrong I was.
Now that I look back, as I deal with the perils of life with this illness, I wish that I had learned to better manage my energy levels before I crashed and burn. I wish that somebody had stopped me in my tracks and told me to slow down before my energy ran out. But for me, now is too late to dwell on my past mistakes. I must instead suffer the consequences and work to overcome this obstacle that lays before me. And help others to avoid facing the same fate.
Here are just a few small tips to help you from overdoing it and avoiding travelling down the same path that I did.
- Avoid over-committing- As a type A, overachiever personality type, over-committing was just part of my DNA. But it wasn’t until later in life after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue I realised just how damaging this trait could be. And that I could have worked on changing it. Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, trying to achieve everything all at once, focus on what you most want in life. I have found these days writing a list of goals, and then prioritising them has been most helpful. You probably can achieve everything you want to, but don’t be greedy and expect to achieve them all at once. Be patient and find that balance of priorities otherwise there will be two likely outcomes. You will either crash and burn like I did. Or even worse you will become a chronic quitter, that never fulfils any of their goals as they are unable to give 100% to each one. Focus on one thing at a time and you will see that amazing results will follow.
- Practice mindfulness and stress management techniques- Stress is one of the biggest factors affecting our current society. It is responsible for so many health issues, family break downs, mental health issues and even suicides and deaths. And the sad part is it can all be avoided. In such a busy and fast paced world, sometimes we forget that we need to stop sometimes and just let our mind and body reset and have a break from it all. Unfortunately, many of us ‘do not have time’ for this, when in fact it should be a priority before anything else. So stop making excuses and pushing yourself towards a nervous breakdown. Instead practice the art of mindfulness and you will find the incredible difference it can make on your stress levels. Start off with some deep breathing exercises while you are stuck in traffic. Or listen to some meditation on your break at work. I also highly recommend doing some meditation and deep breathing as soon as you wake up as it sets your mood and intentions for the entire day. Honestly, it may sound silly but the benefits, such as greater clarity, better ability to handle stress and enhanced appreciation of life, far outweigh the consequences of enduring a life of discomfort, anxiety and unhappiness.
- Find a work/life balance- What frustrates me most these days is the priority that so many people put on work over every thing else. They get sucked in to the pressures and demands of this working world and become overworked to the point where earning money and meeting targets holds greater weight then spending quality time with family or enjoying the simple things in life. Well if you want to continue putting all your energy into your job, don’t let me stop you. But say hello to a life of unfulfilled dreams, depression and anxiety. Perhaps even loneliness. Or instead of subjecting you to such a miserable life, you could instead learn to reevaluate your priorities. And your main priorities should be you, your family and friends, doing what you love and then anything else that follows. Yes sure we need work for money so that we can pay for the essentials and luxuries in life. But is it really worth sacrificing our other values for? I don’t believe so. When you are at work, give it your all. But when it comes time to clock off, leave your work hat at the door. Don’t let that bitter customer, the difficult boss or the tonne of work you have to do leave the office with you. And if you have had enough of working for the man or in a job that you despise, take a leap and do something that you enjoy, even if it entails working for yourself or taking a pay cut. After all, if you are passionate about your job, it doesn’t really become your job anymore. It becomes one of your greatest achievements. And you will be a happier person for it.
- Pace yourself- Pacing is an art I am still learning to master and it has become essential in day-to-day life to be able to successfully manage my energy levels. But it is also a crucial concept for everyone in life, no matter whether they are suffering from a chronic illness or not. Pacing involves learning to be more mindful of our days and how we choose to effectively utilise all of the hours which consume it. A great technique is to use a diary or organiser to plan your day every morning, and forever 50 minutes of physical or mental exertion you should schedule at least 5-10 minutes of down time to break each activity up. It is also beneficial to switch between mental and physical activities to ensure you do not overexert yourself too much with either, which will result in fatigue, tiredness or increased stress levels. Not only does this help you ensure that you avoid over doing it but it also sets you up for a more productive day. And upon crossing the tasks off in your daily planner, you will feel more accomplished and fulfilled in life in general.
If I wish anything, it is that nobody else every suffers this energy-depleting, mind-sucking illness. So if you can, please take the steps to indulge in some of these suggestions before it is too late for you.
You won’t regret it.