By Erica Verrillo
The holidays are a busy time. Families and friends get together, good food is shared, gifts are exchanged. There is shopping to be done, special meals to be planned, wrapping presents, decorating the tree …
Just reading that list is exhausting.
The fact is that whenever there is an expenditure of energy – and this goes for anyone – the inevitable consequence is the post-event letdown. For people with CFS and ME, who don't have the ability to recuperate easily, the result is a crash – a period in which the exhaustion is total. All the other symptoms you have may flare up as well, not just because you've been expending energy, but because you may also be eating food you don't normally eat and altering your sleeping patterns. People with CFS and ME simply don't have the flexibility to handle changes. And Christmas is a major change from daily routine.
There are several things you can do to help mitigate the post-holiday crash.
First, if you've overdone it over the holidays, and are now crashing, don't beat yourself up. Having an illness that relegates you to living your life in a box is not only restricting, it is stressful. If you do a little too much at Christmas, it is simply because you are trying to join the human race. There is nothing wrong with that. The ability to enjoy company, to eat and drink and make merry, and to do simple, normal things becomes all the more precious when it's been curtailed. So, even if you do crash – it may have been worth it for the sake of your overall wellbeing.
Second, you can take breaks. A number of years ago, when I was spending the vast majority of my days in bed, I had to attend a wedding. The reception was in a house, so I simply found a couch and lay down. Eventually, someone wandered into the room, noticed that I was lying down, and said, “That's a good idea.” She lay down on the floor beside me, and we had a pleasant conversation. Soon, several other people had joined her. There were now five people lying next to one another on the floor, chatting. Throughout the evening, people got up and left, and others took their places. The lesson I learned was that I didn't have to (literally) rise to the occasion. (And, it appears, other people were more than happy to take a break as well.)
Third, plan to have one or more “down days” (as many as you need). It's one thing to have a crash, it's quite another to prepare for one. I have found that whenever I need to do something that requires more energy than I have, planning to have sufficient rest time afterward makes it easier to get through the event – and to recover from it. This may require a bit of scheduling, but it will reduce your stress levels considerably.
Managing this illness is just as important as treating it. The trick is to find a strategy that works for you.
My best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!
Erica Verrillo is the author of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide, 2nd Edition, available as an electronic book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Payhip (PDF file). Her website, CFSTreatmentGuide.com, provides practical resources for patients with ME/CFS. She also writes a blog, Onward Through the Fog, with up-to-date news and information about the illness, as well as the full text ofCFS: A Treatment Guide, 1st Edition (available in translation). Ms. Verrillo has been the editor of ProHealth's ME/CFS Healthwatch and Natural Wellness HealthWatch since February 2013.