Every ME/CFS patient is forced to make certain lifestyle changes and adaptations. The key is to make the changes that will help you develop an environment that allows you to function at the best level possible and gives you the best opportunity to improve both physically and emotionally.
One of the most important changes any ME/CFS patient can make is learning to live within your “energy envelope.” Each day evaluate your energy level and imagine putting that allotment of energy into an envelope. Each time you expend energy, mentally remove that portion of energy from your envelope. When your envelope is empty, it’s time to stop.
It’s often tempting to keep going, especially if you’re having a good day. But if you try to push beyond your energy envelope one day, you’re likely to crash and feel worse for several days. Learn to separate what needs to be done from what you would like to get done, and focus on the necessities first.
Other important lifestyle changes include:
- Practicing good sleep hygiene. Poor sleep is one of the biggest problems for ME/CFS patients, but unfortunately most do not have good sleep habits. In fact, Dr. Lucinda Bateman says 80 percent of her ME/CFS patients actually make their sleep worse. To learn more about good sleep hygiene, read: “Sleeping Without Pills.”
- Improving your diet. If possible, consult a nutritionist or dietitian to determine which foods are best for you. When energy levels are low, it’s easy to fall back on fast food or frozen dinners, which seldom have the best nutritional value. On the days you cook, make extra and freeze your own nutritional meals to have on hand for the days you have no energy. Or if you’re not able to cook at all, maybe a friend or family member would make extra and freeze it to share with you.
- Organizing your home to conserve energy. For example, keep a set of items you need regularly next to the chair, sofa or bed where you spend most of your time (i.e., phone, pencil, paper, nail file) so you don’t have to keep getting up to get them. Or always put your keys in the same place so you don’t have to search the house every time you need to go somewhere.