Relaxation: why it is vital to chronic fatigue recovery

I talk to a lot of people living with chronic fatigue conditions such as M.E,  CFS and Fibromyalgia and one common issue that the majority of sufferers have is a high level of stress.  Relaxation is a real challenge.

The causes of the stress are unique to each person but themes keep coming up.

These include:

  • Difficult relationships
  • Challenging work situations
  • Primary care for a family member or loved one
  • Difficult childhood/teenage years or sense of not belonging
  • Financial insecurity
  • Worry over complex health issues

These sorts of stresses pray on our minds, consciously and subconsciously.  The constant worry and anxiety associated with these issues activates our central nervous system.  The central nervous system is made up of two elements, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.  The role of these two systems is to keep our body in balance and functioning appropriately for the circumstances we are in.

The impact of stress within our body

Stress triggers a response within the Sympathetic Nervous System (flight or fight system) that is like dominoes toppling over.  A chemical chain reaction results in the release of adrenaline into our bloodstream. The adrenaline immediately puts our body on red alert, with all non necessary systems shut down.  Our body is primed and ready for fight or flight action.

Except, we rarely actually do either of these things. Instead we carry on with life as best we can, largely unaware that there is a chemical frenzy going in on inside of us.  We might be aware of our heart beating faster, or a change to our breathing or perhaps a fidgety, restless feeling but we rarely link these to some form of stress.

Spending all day, and sometimes all night, in this pent-up fight or flight state is exhausting – it’s no wonder poor sleep and fatigue so often occur together!

It’s all about balance.

The balancing action of the Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest system) is missing. This system is supposed to kick in and calm our bodies down after the Sympathetic Nervous System has done its job.  It reactivates all the body functions that the adrenaline has switched off.   It’s like hitting the re-boot button!

The problem is modern day living means that we seldom come down out of the stress high to allow the body to return to equilibrium.

SNS Dominance
Sympathetic Nervous System Dominance

As a result, the two systems get out of balance, with the Sympathetic Nervous System becoming dominant.  Being out of balance for prolonged periods of time puts the chemical functioning of our body out of  alignment.  We start to exhibit a range of physical symptoms. This is our body desperately trying to signal to us but all is not well.  If we continue to ignore the signals, eventually our bodies will shut down and we end up in bed.

Ok, so what’s all that got to do with relaxation?

Well, there are actually a number of things we can do to help rebalance and come out of Sympathetic Nervous System dominance. Relaxation is a powerful tool that help can help to put the Parasympathetic Nervous System back in charge.  This will allow our body to return to normal service.

There are a range of different techniques we can use to relax, such as:

Developing a relaxation response – training our mind & body to become calm using established techniques that include

  • Deep abdominal breathing
  • Focusing on a soothing word
  • Visualising calm seems
  • Repetitive prayer
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi

Undertaking physical activity – exercise drives deep breathing, relieves muscle tension and provides a mental focus.

The exercise has to be appropriate to energy levels.  Very gentle breathing exercises or a walk around the bedroom may be suitable for someone who is bedbound.  For someone with more energy, this might mean a short walk outside.

Taking up a hobby – links back to mental focus and works well with something that we love to do, or perhaps used to do.  It engages our “logical” brain, putting it back in charge over our more basic, survival mode brain.  It’s another way of taking back control.

Seeking social support – the connection, one person to another, can be hugely supportive in times of crisis.

Connect with positive people
connect with positive people

Depending on energy levels, this  may mean that connections are established over social media, Skype and Zoom in the first instance rather than face to face.  There is the old adage that “A problem shared, is a problem halved”.  Chronic fatigue conditions sometimes leave people feeling very isolated and not wanting to share their experience.

Finding a supportive community of like minded people, who just get what going on for you can be truly transformative.  I would urge anyone who is feeling lost, isolated and fed up to contact The Chrysalis Effect immediately – they have a fabulous recoverers facebook group as part of their online recovery programme, which comes with a free 30 day trial.

Relaxation can make a difference

Now, I’m not saying that relaxation on its own will resolve chronic fatigue but it can make a huge difference.

By understanding of what is happening in our body when we are stressed, and being aware of how our body reacts, means we will be able to spot when our stress response is being triggered.  We can then take steps to counteract the stress.  We are in a powerful position to take conscious control and make a positive impact on our health.  This is a much better position than being a victim of something we haven’t been consciously aware of.

It’s a huge step towards getting your life back!

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised, or would like support working towards your recovery, get in touch with Suzanne at Reconnecting You

Life was a lot easier when we lived in caves!!

Short lived stress

When we were dealing with sabre toothed tigers and woolly mammoths we either played dead, we fought, or we ran away. These options allowed our bodies to put the fight or flight hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, to good use.  These are generated in response to stressful and threatening situations.

After fooling the mammoth, running away from the tiger or fighting either, our bodies would be able to return to a much calmer state.  The hormone levels dropped back down to normal (or we wouldn’t have made it out alive, in which case the rest of this article would become pointless!)

Thankfully, modern day life has a distinct lack of sabre toothed tigers and woolly mammoths! On the downside, these threats have been replaced by many more stressful situations and anxious moments, most of which don’t come with an opportunity to play dead, fight or flee.

How many daily stress points do you have?

If you think about your average day at work – how many stress points do you hit? 3, 7, 10, 20?

Think about anything that regularly causes you anxiety or stress,.  This can be anything from the little stuff all the way through to big stuff!

  • getting your family all up and moving in time for the day ahead
  • forgetting your lunch/drink/sports kit
  • traffic hold ups
  • finding your inbox full of emails all needing your attention
  • deadlines at work
  • family pressures
  • worries over your health, and so on.

Count your stress points up again – bet you have more now, don’t you?!

These stress points build up throughout your day, repeatedly triggering the release of our flight or fight hormones. Your body spend more and more time on “red alert” without the necessary activity to use up the hormones. As a result, it’s really difficult for your body to be able to get back to a normal, calm and balanced state.

Fight or flight impact

When the fight or flight response is activated, it impacts every single system within your body so that you can either play dead, fight or flee. For example, blood flow is diverted to major muscles and your breathing being modified to so that you can take quick physical action. Another example is that your digestive and immune systems are suppressed.  You don’t need to digest last night’s meal, or deal with the sniffle when you are in danger of becoming a meal yourself.

All of this is fine and dandy when the impact is short term, counted in minutes. When the impact last throughout the day, or a substantial part of it, the problems are more significant. You are not designed to spend large amounts of time with blood diverted to major muscles, or your digestive and immune systems subdued.

The long and short of it is that your general health will begin to be affected.  You may get headaches, pick up colds more often, struggle to concentrate, have digestive issues such as IBS and intolerances, fatigue, being aware of stress and anxiety.  The list goes on and on. Eventually, your body will stick out the “FULL” sign and put you in bed so that you are forced to rest and recuperate.

The answer is not to tackle the symptom, but to tackle the cause.  To look at what is driving the stress, the anxiety. Most of us can usually pinpoint this bit quite quickly – the tricky bit is working out what to do about it, and then actually DOING it.

That’s where I come in!

I come armed with knowledge of the impact of stress on our systems.  I combine this with established coaching techniques that focus on your health and wellbeing to help you to tackle three steps

  • pinpoint the stresses
  • work out plans
  • put them into action

This allows you to  take back control of your health, make change and get your life back.

Contact me if you would like to know more

4 things you need to know about Health Kinesiology

1.  Health Kinesiology isn’t a talking therapy…

… you don’t have to reveal anything you don’t want to.  There is no need to worry about being put on the spot or revisit experiences that you would rather not. In fact, I have worked with clients who have preferred not to share anything during a session, and health kinesiology still resolved their issues.

Now, that doesn’t mean to say we have spent the hour in silence, not a bit of it!  As I work, I speak out loud the questions I am asking of your body energy.  I am literally “talking to your arm” to find out what your body needs.

2.  You keep your clothes on, at all times

… no seriously, AT ALL TIMES.  You do get to lie on a couch, rest your head on a pillow and snuggle up under a blanket though.

I usually work with your right arm propped up on the couch at a right angle, so that I can gently press on your forearm and see whether your arms stays in place or moves when I ask a question.

This is muscle response testing, and I use it to guide what we do next.

3.  It’s all about stress busting…

.. absolutely everything we do in a session is aimed at reducing or eliminating stress from your system.

Health kinesiology has strong links to the holistic approach taken in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It works with yin/yang energy flowing up and down the meridians in your body.  These flows are disrupted by all sort of things that happen in our daily life, like accidents, trauma, emotional events, day to day stresses and anxiety.

These types of events have the potential to interfere with our energy flow and cause physical ailments to show up such as aches & pains, reactions & intolerances, headaches & migraines, digestive issues, the list is endless!   By releasing the stress from within your body, we restore the body energy.  Physical issues reduce or go altogether.  Simples!

4.  Permission granted…

…to be kind to yourself for the rest of the day (and drink plenty of water!)

Most people feel a bit blissed out after a health kinesiology session, very relaxed and calm.  The session has helped to cut through the thinking and worrying, allowing you to switch off and rest.  So, to get the most out of our session together, I always ask you to take it easy for the rest of the day and allow yourself to enjoythe rest of the day.

And, because it’s a thing of mine, I will ask you (repeatedly!) to drink plenty of water.  It really is what your body needs lots of in order to function properly.

If you would like to find out more about working with me, or book a health kinesiology session, get in touch.  Reconnecting You