How To Manage A Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Crash
Anyone suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome is familiar with the term ‘crash’. It’s used to describe what happens when you push your body past its’ current energy production capabilities.
The technical term for a crash is ‘post exertional malaise’. How severely you are affected by chronic fatigue syndrome will dictate how badly you crash, how debilitating the crash is, and how long you take to recover from it. In a study, PEM was found to worsen symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and reduces daily functioning.
When you push your body physically, mentally or both, outside your energy envelope, your body systems will be unable to cope and force you to rest. To understand about energy envelopes read here.
You may have had a good couple of days, been feeling better, gone out for the day, or worked longer hours than usual. Perhaps you went to a party or some other social gathering and stayed longer than you should have because you were having fun catching up with friends.
Whatever the activity, you know you’ve pushed it and arrive home from your outing feeling pretty tired. But the following day, it’s worse than just the normal fatigue you cope with each day, you can barely get out of bed and now you are paying for overdoing it the previous day.
Your muscles are painful and you feel like you have the flu, you are so fatigued you have no energy to do anything. Dragging yourself out of bed to use the toilet is a major feat.
But you have life to live and stuff that needs to be done, what are you going to do? You are desperately asking yourself ” How can I increase my energy level during a crash”?
When going through a crash, even the simple act of standing upright to take a shower was unthinkable for me. I started taking baths instead and tried to make them as relaxing and pleasant as possible. Even then, it took all of my diminished energy to push myself up and out of the bath, I felt like a ninety-year-old woman.
Unfortunately, the reality is that even when you are pretty tuned in to your energy limits, there are going to be times when you push things too hard and you crash. So, what are you going to do?
Give In To It……….
Pushing yourself any further will only result in even more debilitating fatigue and worsening symptoms. So, give in to it and realize you must rest fully and completely to recover even a small amount of your diminished energy.
One of the most difficult things for me to get to grips with mentally was the realization that I had an illness. Once I acknowledged this, it made it easier for me to treat myself well and stop beating myself up for everything I could no longer do.
Going over and over in your mind all of the things you need to do, have to do, and should be doing whilst in the midst of a debilitating crash is pointless.
With this realization, I was able to give in to each crash, knowing that if I took it easy for a couple of days I’d recover sufficiently to return to leading what had become my semi normal life.
Luckily for me I only had one period during my illness where I was pretty much bedridden for about a month. All other crashes I recovered from in a few days once I simply let go, gave in to it and allowed my body the time it needed to recover some energy.
A Crash Can Be Scary……
Experiencing a crash is scary because you feel as if you’ve lost control over your health and your life. It’s impossible to know how long each crash will last, will it be one day or two days, maybe a week or perhaps even longer before you can crawl out of bed, get dressed and function semi normally again?
My version of chronic fatigue syndrome was waking up every morning totally unrefreshed with a feeling of having the flu. The feeling that my bones had been filled with lead making every movement an effort. Tight and painful muscles and a never-ending array of symptoms that grew weekly added to my distress. This was my now normal life, but when I experienced a crash, things got even worse.
Each crash put me flat on my back, incapable of doing anything, and all my varied and confusing symptoms worsened. Everything hurt, my arms, shoulders, neck and back along with extremely tight and painful Achilles area in my legs which also affected my balance somehow. My entire body seemed water logged as my fluid balance went haywire and night sweats were out of control.
So, What Should You Do During A Crash?
The short answer is………………absolutely nothing! Stay in bed, or camp out on the sofa, get comfortable and simply rest. You’ve used up all of the available energy your body is capable of producing right now and you’re in a deficit.
For me, what made dealing with each crash difficult was that my mind was still fully alert and active, it was my body that was letting me down. It was hard to relax my body for recovery when my mind was still humming along and raring to go.
Mentally, I had to continually remind myself of the benefit of just giving into it and being confident that if I did, my recovery period would not be prolonged.
Settle In And Get Comfortable
Whether it takes a day or a week to recover, acknowledging you have an illness that will inevitably result in having crashes means you can be prepared when they arrive. Here are some ideas for managing a crash:
On days when you feel better, stock up the freezer with ready prepared meals that can be easily re-heated during times when you’re experiencing a crash. This way, you’ll have nutritious and easily digestible food ready.
This should prevent the need to order in fast food, or eat whatever junk is readily available when you don’t have energy to cook. More than at any other time your body needs good, healthy and nutritious food to provide nutrients to your cells.
Meals should ideally include a good balance of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. If the thought of eating solid food is even too much for you, having some nutritious soups on hand are a good idea. You can make them with some chicken broth and vegetables and place them in the freezer.
The most important thing to remember is not to indulge any cravings for sugary, fatty, high carb fast food and to understand the cravings are simply your body’s way of trying to get energy quickly whilst in such a depleted state.
Load up your Kindle with reading material to relieve boredom.
I found this a lifesaver for me, so simple and convenient to use a couple of clicks and a new book is downloaded immediately. However, you shouldn’t have long periods of screen time. So, break up your reading time with some audio books too.
Take a bath
As I mentioned, during my worst episodes with crashes I could not even summon up enough energy to stand upright in the shower, so I started having baths instead.
Putting a couple of handfuls of Epsom salts and a few drops of essential oil in the bath water turned it into a relaxing pleasant experience.
The Epsom salts helped relax tight muscles and the essential oils could be uplifting or relaxing depending on which oils I chose.
Light and Sound
Always sensitive to bright lights and loud noises, I became even more so during a crash. It’s helpful to pull the shades and keep the lighting subdued to alleviate over sensitivity.
Putting It All Together
During a crash, it’s important to stay positive, continue to work towards recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome using some of the tips on this website together with a protocol from your naturopath.
Crashes will become fewer and recovery from crashes will be faster as your body gets stronger. By keeping a positive attitude and slowly moving towards your goal of recovery, crashes will become a thing of the past.
Please feel free to leave any comments or queries you have below.