In a decade of working with people with these illnesses in self-healing retreats and home-based programs, I have seen ten principles emerge which seem to lay a foundation for exceptional healing. I've been heartened and inspired to see people who follow these principles make the transition from a cyclical pattern of unrelenting chronicity into a process of gradual improvement over time. Healing from CFS and FM is possible – regardless of how long you have been ill. It is, however, a long, slow, and unpredictable process.
1. Perspective on medicine. Whatever medical support you use – conventional or alternative – see it as secondary, and what you can do to create the optimal conditions for self-healing as primary.
2. Illness as teacher. You did not cause your illness, but it is a call to re-evaluate your priorities and master some valuable life lessons. See your disease as an opportunity for positive change. People who find meaning in their illness have better medical outcomes.
3. Meditation. Develop a daily practice of meditation. Hundreds of studies prove its effects in reducing pain and healing the nervous system, circulatory system, immune system, digestive system, and hormonal system. It will also help you attune to inner guidance and inspiration.
4. Radical simplification. Reduce or eliminate television, news, noise and other agitating sources of neurological stimulation. Let your nervous system be at peace. Practice the art of being simple and present by asking yourself, "What really matters in this moment?"
5. Exercise. Exercise stimulates your vital energy which is needed for healing. However, exercise must be gentle, non-impact, and not cause pain. Aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling or movement in water is helpful, as well as practices such as tai chi and chi kung. De-conditioning is common in people with CFS or FM who avoid exercise for fear of aggravating their symptoms, and this causes a further downward spiral of vitality.
6. Practice loving kindness. Frequently stop, close your eyes, and bring your awareness to your heart. Summon feelings of appreciation, gratitude, compassion and love — for yourself and others. This will cause body-wide changes, including the relaxation response, that can reduce the severity of symptoms.
7. Joy and passion. The subtle energy behind all healing is stirred by joy, pleasure and passion. Find ways to nourish your soul whenever possible, whether through music, art, creativity, being in nature, or whatever arouses these feelings in you.
8. Inspirational breathing. In my retreats for people with CFS and FM, as well as in the home-based programs, patients have reported their pain completely gone for a time after using breathing exercises – particularly a technique I call Evocative Breath Therapy, which involves a blend of breathing exercises, music, and guided imagery.
9. Connecting. The social isolation due to physical limitations of CFS and FM is one of the greatest challenges. Yet, research shows that supportive relationships promote physical healing. Invest in relationships that support you, and practice saying "no" to those that don't.
10. Letting go of the outcome. It is a paradox that when we let go of striving for an outcome, an inner relaxation arises that enables our healing responses to work at their maximum. Replace your focus on future outcomes with an attitude of trust that your highest good will prevail.
Used with permission. William Collinge, PhD, is a leading consultant, author, speaker, and researcher in the field of integrative healthcare. He has written numerous articles and books dealing with chronic conditions and healing, including Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, available www.healthy.net/collinge/