Tips for Managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
June 28 2022
8 Tips for Managing the Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), can alter your life in many ways. While it is a condition that can be hard to cope with, there are some strategies you can adopt to make it easier.
It is important to understand that you may go through bad phases, or relapses, followed by periods of feeling better, or remission. Expecting this pattern of ups and downs can help you to manage your condition and your energy levels.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated disorder that is characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts for at least six months and can’t be fully explained by an underlying medical condition. This fatigue worsens with physical or mental activity (post-exertional malaise), but doesn’t improve with rest.
Some other symptoms include:
- Sleep that is unrefreshing
- Memory, focus, and concentration difficulties
- Dizziness that worsens with moving from one position to another
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle or joint pain
Because of the exhaustion and pain that CFS patients feel, this can restrict their lifestyle and cause them to miss work more often or to leave the workforce altogether. It can also lead to social isolation and depression.
There’s no known cause of CFS, although there are many theories. These theories range from viral infections, immune system issues, hormonal imbalances, and even psychological stress. Some experts believe CFS might be triggered by a combination of factors. Those at an increased risk for developing CFS are young to middle-aged adults and women (though the latter may be because women are more likely to report their symptoms to a doctor).
There is also no single test to confirm a diagnosis of CFS. Most patients end up having a variety of medical tests to rule out other health issues that have similar symptoms. When it comes to treatment, the focus is on improving and managing symptoms.
Plan Extra Time
On your bad days, it can be hard to accomplish even the simplest and most mundane tasks, like taking a shower. Because of this, you should plan extra time into your routine, especially for tasks that are hard for you.
Don’t Overdo It
When you feel well, it can be tempting to do as much as you can while you have the energy. However, if you push yourself too much, you will end up crashing later. This leads to a vicious cycle of relapses and remission. Instead, balance all of your daily activities, even on your good days.
It can be difficult to motivate yourself to exercise and it can be a tricky issue for those with ME/CFS. If the exercise program isn’t developed for your individual needs, it can lead to exhaustion. Be sure to work with your medical team to establish a baseline of exercises that can be gradually increased. This can help you work through your limits without resulting in post-exercise fatigue.
Watch What You Eat
Diet can play a big part in how you feel. Be sure to avoid foods or chemicals that you are sensitive to. Eating several smaller meals throughout the course of the day can help keep your energy levels up and help control nausea. Some foods to avoid or limit include sugar, sweeteners, alcohol, and caffeine.
Use a Planner
Memory loss can be a symptom of CFS. To combat this issue, use a day planner to help keep you on task. Setting reminders on your smartphone of when it’s time to go somewhere or do something can also be helpful. Doing puzzles, word games, and card games can keep your mind active and can help improve your memory.
Medication may be prescribed by your doctor to address associated symptoms of CFS. These can be both prescription and over-the-counter. Some of the associated symptoms that can be treated with medication include depression, orthostatic intolerance (nausea or feeling faint), and pain. Make sure that you take your medication as prescribed. Some medications are considered maintenance drugs, meaning you must continue to take these medications, even if you currently feel well.
Counseling can also be helpful for managing depression and other mental health issues that arise due to a diagnosis of CFS. This can help you address your limitations and improve relationships.
Some CFS patients find relief in a more holistic approach, combining Western and Eastern medicine. Some other options to help with the symptoms of CFS include gental massage therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and tai chi. Make sure to work with your doctor to find the right combination of treatments for you.