10 Ways to reduce anxiety and depression to manage chronic fatigue (CFS/ME)

By on September 19, 2011 in Headspace, Relaxation with 0 Comments

Do you get wound up with anxiety or weighed down with depression?  I certainly do and I’ve had to find ways to manage it as both anxiety and depression make all of my other CFS/ME symptoms much worse. 

Anxiety is probably my number one enemy for stoking the CFS/ME fire – and that’s not the fire in my belly unfortunately – it’s the fire that quickly melts my CPU and sends me spinning out of control, looking for a safe and secure resting spot to shut down and restore.

Unfortunately once the anxiety switch has been flicked it takes a fair bit of rest and restorative work to get my balance back again.  I believe the anxiety was one of the key triggers for my CFS/ME.  My daily lifestyle pre CFS/ME and Ross River, consisted of redlining from one corner to the next.  If you haven’t picked it up yet, as well as being green I also have a wee passion for many things grease and petrol.  Yes, not real green I know, but please don’t hold that against me, you can blame my father for that!  Sorry Dad.  I’m sure it was dads love of motorsports, and probably also that I was riding around on the back of a motorbike in my mothers’ belly before I was even born, that is to blame.

So I am a bit of an adrenalin seeker, action junkie – I love  the fast pace of life, the social scenes, the parties, weekends away, and getting into a variety of entertainment and activities.  Whilst that was the majority of my life pre CFS/ME I also had an appreciation for the calmer, inner side of life as well – nature, being in the present moment, meditation, yoga etc. – but I was very out of balance, and I knew it.  I just couldn’t bring myself into alignment.  So thus I guess CFS/ME was sent to sort that out for me!  Doh!

So basically I’ve always run on a fair bit of yang (the doing energy) and over time I became a pretty anxious and stressed out person.  And so even though I’m working through many symptoms with CFS/ME, anxiety is probably my number one fiend and depression closely follows if I don’t get it under control.

So here are some ways that I reduce anxiety.  I hope they may be of help to you and I look forward to hearing about what works for you.

1.      Sleep – get the right amount of sleep for me with regularity.  I need to get 9 hours a night.  Anything less and I am operating on very shaky ground.  Getting to sleep and staying asleep has been a problem in the past and comes up every now and then, so I also have developed some strategies for improving my sleep.

2.      Daily Meditation and Yoga – this is something I’m always working on.  I try to do a bit of each every morning, it doesn’t always happen, but I really notice the difference when I do.  Meditation is great for settling my mind and yoga really helps to relax my body.  Meditation can also help with sleep and improving digestion.

3.      Good Food Regularly – low blood sugar is a major trigger for anxiety for me.  If I don’t get regular food I start to get edgy and emotional and everything starts to fall apart.  I’ve also found that my regular meals need to contain protein to give me energy, keep my blood sugar on an even keel and stop me from craving sugar and chocolate.  So I now having 6 meals a day and making sure each one has a good source of protein in it.

4.      Drink 2L (8 glasses) of water a day – being roughly two thirds water a small drop in the percentage of water in our system can have a major effect.  When I get dehydrated it makes the fatigue and cognitive problems worse and I’ve also read that it can increase pain so a big one for FM sufferers.  Managing hydration helps the body to manage stress.  I actually get hunger cravings when I need water.  My body is trying to tell me I need water but the message gets misinterpreted.  I keep track of it by filling up my water jugs each day and  monitoring how much water I drink.

5.      Enhance Relaxation and Joy – I’ve found its really important keeping a good headspace together and so I regularly do things that just make me feel good.  Things like:

  • burning essential oils like lavender and patchouli,
  • have a bath with Epsom salts, candles and gentle music,
  • listen to relaxing music or guided meditation cds,
  • soak up natures music by listening to birds, wind and water – sitting in a park, by a creek or beach,
  • Hanging out with children or animals,
  • Pottering around the garden,
  • Watching an inspiring movie or reading an uplifting book.

6.      Get some sun each day – sitting in the sun for a little bit each day makes me feel warm and happy – got to be good for the nervous system and of course it’s also great for the body’s immune system with that injection of Vitamin D.  There is also an ancient practice of sungazing that is believed to provide many benefits including the relief of anxiety and depression.  Betsy shares her experience of sungazing.  Mason Dwinell sheds some light on how to sungaze.  I was introduced to sungazing by my natropath and have taken a more relaxed approach than Betsy and Mason but I make sure I do my gazing when the sun is still very low in the sky.  It helps me particularly with depression.

7.      Be positive – I know this can be really hard at times and I am constantly working on it.  Be grateful – I try to remind myself each day what I am grateful for.  I constantly acknowledge that this path I am on is especially for me and that it is meant to be for reasons that I am not aware of.  Opening up and accepting this helps me to just be, not to fight against it and create emotional turmoil.  Accepting helps me to be positive.  It’s an ongoing journey uncovering negative self-talk and negative beliefs, I just try to be conscious and notice them and reprogram them with new affirmations and beliefs.  The Journey Work is a great way of working on these.

8.      Deep breathing – this is something I often overlook but it is a really powerful method for reducing anxiety.  While meditating and doing yoga I practice deep breathing and I keep it up my sleeve for really anxious moments.  The age old practice of breathing into paper bag definitely has its merits.

9.      Remove stressful situations and people – they are really not worth it.  I know it is really hard to come to terms with this as I had to do it.  There are things I would love to return to but I know they are stressful.  At first I just thought I had to get the techniques right and have some control over my anxiety, but well, now I just believe it is best to just avoid those situations – saves me having to be a ‘yogi in a day!’.  I like to list things out to see them clearer.  I made a list of things that appeared to be stressful for me and keep adding to the list as things pop up.  At the right time I review them and look for options to remove or reduce stresses.  Finances was a real bugger for me, and not an easy one to resolve.  But by identifying it I was able to work through it with family and friends and for now I’ve been able to bed it down.

10.  Pacing – this is kind of the CFS/ME recovery tagline.  It really think it is the key to CFS/ME recovery.  By pacing myself I’ve been able to reign in my expectations of what I can achieve.  I simply allow myself to accept how I am each day and I work with that.  I do get uptight at times when I start to expect more from myself, but a quick reflection on what I truly need for my body brings me back to my pacing strategy – doing what I can and resting when I need it.


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