Essential Self-Help Treatments for Chronic Fatigue (CFS/ME) Recovery

Over time I’ve come to see these Six Self-Help Treatments as being the essential building blocks for my recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).  The great thing is that they are within my control and they don’t require a tonne of money!

1.       Manage Sleep Patterns

Even a healthy person will most probably find their body slowing down when their sleep patterns are disturbed, eventually they will start to have difficulty thinking clearly and their body will become sluggish.

Yes, I know that’s how most people with CFS/ME feel in general, but by getting my sleeping patterns into order I was able to improve my symptoms considerably.

I now try to make sure I get at least 8-9 hours of sleep each night at regular times, not always easy but I’ve developed some tools to help me manage my sleeping patterns.

Q – What tools could you start to test out to help manage your sleeping patterns better?

2.       Detox – or at least stop putting toxins into my body

I had some pretty poor habits before becoming sick – smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol being the main culprits.

I’ve since quit both and I also try to limit other things that might be toxic to my system, such as coffee, flour, sugar and harmful chemicals (there is a massive list here but I’ve just looked at all the potential toxic chemicals that are around me and within products I use and made changes where I can).

To help give my system a bit of help with detoxing I do dry skin brushing daily, eat plenty of garlic, try to drink 2L of water a day and squeeze lemon juice into my drinks as often as possible.

Q – What changes could you make to reduce the toxins coming into your system?  What could you do (that is safe and nurturing) to detoxify your system?

3.       Boost Nutrition

It’s not just about getting good food into your body, it’s also about making sure your body is in a working order to take up and utilise the nutrients.  If the digestive system is dragging it’s feet then it can be difficult for the body to access nutrients.

I’m always trying to support my own digestive system as it wasn’t working too well in the early days, and it does slow down now and then when I become less vigilant with my practices.

Some common indications that it might be time for a digestion tune up include: bloating, burping or gas after eating, irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux.

The key things I keep an eye on for boosting my nutrition include:

  • Digestive support (herbs, digestive supplements)
  • Alkalising foods
  • Detoxing
  • Hydration
  • Nutritious food
  • Organic food
  • Regular protein
  • Supplements (vitamin C and B; Omega 3 Fish Oils; Multivitamin; Iodine)
  • Other (Vegie Juices, Apple Cidar Vinegar, Garlic, Lemon, Ginger).

Q – What could you do to boost your nutrition and/or help your body utilise nutrients better?

Read more about how I build my body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

4.       Pacing

At any stage of recovery I think pacing is important.

Even when I was too tired to do anything I could have benefited from pacing.  Things like cooking are essential even when you’re down and out and with a pacing plan a difficult task can be cut down into a few tasks and broken up with rests in between.  This is at one extreme of the pacing spectrum.  At the other end, when I’m feeling pretty good, it is about doing 50% of what I think I have the energy for and keeping 50% of my energy in reserve for recovery.

Pacing is essential as I believe there is a need to be progressing forward.  The progress may be slow and some days it may feel like it’s going backwards, but I believe it is the slow and steady progress that helps to keep a steady mind and of course activity also has many physical benefits.  The caution is to ensure it is slow and steady.  If you do too much, then you can go backwards in your recovery, and many of us do try to make up for lost time when we feel like we have some energy back, but this can simply send recovery backwards.

Thus pacing is needed to extend ourselves slightly, but not too much.  It’s a fine balance and only through trial and error and management can it be worked out.

Q – What do you do each week and how could you better pace yourself?

Read more about Self Pacing for Recovery

5.       Relaxation and Enjoyable Activities

I think a big factor that contributes towards CFS/ME is stress, and if you don’t have it before getting CFS/ME, well, it’s probably pretty likely that you’ll get stressed out given the situation of being chronically ill!

So relaxation and stress management are up there in the essential collection for CFS/ME recovery.

I use mediation, yoga, relaxation CDs, emotional clearing work, Bach Flower Essence (Rescue Remedy and others), St John’s Wart, burning of essential oils, deep breathing, handing out in beautiful surroundings, enjoyable activities and things that make me laugh to help me relax and manage stress.

Q – What are some things you could do to help you relax and destress?

Read more about Reducing Anxiety and Depression

6.       Graded Exercise

Some people have trouble with graded exercise.  It can dramatically increase symptoms associated with CFS/ME/FM.  So it’s is important to be careful and work at safe levels for your individual situation.  There are however, also a lot of examples where graded exercise has really helped.

From my experience I have found it to be essential.  Even when I was at my worse I would try to get 2 or 3 days a week doing 5-10 minutes of walking in.  I now monitor my heart rate (so that I walk at around 75% of my maximum heart rate), and the time and when I walk.  I’m cautious about increasing the time or intensity (heart rate), so at the moment I’m just trying to build up consistency.

Exercising increases oxygen delivery around the body and helps to keep muscles toned.  Without a little bit of exercise I start to get very weak, have difficultly even doing basic activities like cooking, my body aches more and I can have further difficulties with sleep.

Getting out for exercise is also good for my spirit.  I walk down around the river, so I enjoy checking out what is going on down there and soaking up some of the scenery and cool breezes.  I find it relaxing and a little entertaining.  So getting a few things taken  care of.  If I manage to get out through the day (if it’s not too hot), then I also get a boost of vitamin D.

Q – What could you do today that is totally achievable?  How often could you repeat it?

Read more about Safe Exercise for CFS/ME Recovery

So these are what I refer to as my Six Essential Self-Help Treatments for my CFS/ME Recovery.

I keep a list of these on my wall where I can see them regularly with a few dot points of the key things to remember to focus on.  When I do my planning for the week or month ahead I like to refer to this list to make sure I’m keeping my eye on my Essential Six Pack! (LOL)

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  2. Carol says:

    I must say how relieved i was to read your site Green Girl Mel – I have just turned 40 and for years my health has been a bit of a rollcoaster with exhaustion. I would go and have all the necessary blood tests to see if i was lacking in iron or something that could be fixed with medicine! I even went to a psycholigist for months to be told there is nothing wrong with me! It was doing my head in literally. I had Glandular Fever as a teenager and spent two weeks in hospital 8 years ago with a ‘no name’ virus! I have never been able to go to the gym, walk out saying i’ve had a great workout and feel great – always felt exhausted afterwards. I was training in May for a 10 km run (i’m not a runner and have never liked it, but did it with friends for the fun of it!) – what a mistake, since May I have been feeling absolutely exhausted, walking around like a zombie (for want of a better word) – I have four children and with work of course I’m going to get tired but kept telling the doctor it was more than tiredness, it was happening all to frequently and without any answers. Finally in September 2012, I decided as a last resort that maybe I was in fact depressed as i’d looked at all other avenue’s and the dr suggested this was the case and I reluctantly gave in and took anti-depresents for six weeks – nothing changed, i’m still foggy brained and feeling the same. This is the longest I’ve ever felt like this. I go down like a sack of potatoes when a big stress happens in my life. I went and saw an acupuncturist two weeks ago and he suggested I had Chronic Fatigue – I came home and studied the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue and discovered that indeed these are the symptoms I have been experiencing for years. I have stopped socialising and just like my own space at the moment. On my bad days, I find it hard to even interact with my husband and kids. Its hard for my friends and family to understand I think. Its frustrating for me as I want to have loads of energy and enjoy my family and friends. thanks again for your forum, I will be coming back to your site regularily and it makes me feel at peace that their are lots of other people in the same place as me that understand.

    • Thanks for your story Carol, I really appreciate hearing about it. It is a bloody horrible thing when you find a name for what you have and then do a bit of research and hear that there is basically no cure. It can be heart-wrenching. And I can’t really imagine what it is like to go through this and also have a husband and kids. Although great to have some helpers around I’m sure it is just more drain on your energy. I have found myself getting worse when this depression and gloom of the CFS situation comes up. If you can help to bring in lots of stuff that makes you feel good you may also find that it helps to improve things. Relaxation, meditation, yoga, essential oils, reading positive stuff about recovery. All the stuff that helps get the good vibes popping. Of course this is only one element that I used but I guess it is about getting yourself into a better space to tackle the rest of the things that help recovery. For me that was graded exercise, boosting nutrition, managing my sleep, keeping stress at bay (relaxation stuff) and getting the specific treatments I need. Please keep in touch and let us know how you are going.

  3. barb says:

    Spot on Cheers Barb

  4. Sash says:

    Hello Mel,

    Just wanted to tell you that I bookmarked this page months ago and keep coming back to it t remind me of my body’s priorities and encourage me to keep it up.

    How are you going?

    I’ve improved a lot since the first couple of horrible months, cooking for myself and driving again are big achievements!

    I hope you are well and would love to hear some more positive stories from you!

    • Thank you so much Sash, I really appreciate hearing that. I am doing really well now. I now have a consulting job 24 hours a week working from home and have my own business on the side. I have a pretty full life with some great buddies, surfing, and exercise. I’m actually training for a mini triathalon that I’ll be doing in April. Now that all does sound pretty amazing I know and the full truth is that I still have to manage to keep up all the Essential Self-Help stuff to ensure I can manage everything and I do have a small nana nap after lunch every day. If I miss this I do tend to flag pretty bad by 4pm. But if I manage my bodies needs and make them first priority above everything else I manage a very full and happy life.
      I’ll try to get around to doing some more blog posts some time soon.
      Thanks Sash.

  5. Loretta says:

    Hi Mel, I just wanted to say thank you. I have written to you before but after reading your advice on exercise I bought the book you recommended and started exercising. This is the first time since my first bout of fatigue 8 years ago that I have moved. I started with 5 mins a day and some very light weights and for weeks I slept afterwards and then something happened. I started feeling a bit stronger, not quite so tired, I could do more walking and more weights. I am still progressing slowly but I am now doing about 40 mins walking a day with some weights. For years exercise terrified me but I do find that it gives me more energy now. I am pretty fanatical about other aspects of my life, green smoothies, loads of juices, superfoods, raw foods, meditation, relaxation, massage etc. so I think it is a combination but I’m getting there. I now have hopes to get back to work this year some time and that is a massive leap forward. I can’t thank you enough for your article as without it I would still be on the couch getting weaker every day, shuffling around like an old lady. The positive affect it’s had on my mind has been amazing too, to be outdoors for a little bit every day with nature and along the water is nothing short of amazing! I have to be careful not to overdo things, make sure I rest etc. but it is working. I know that you’ve moved on from this website but I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you for making me realise that my body did need to move no matter how bad I felt! It’s great to hear that you’re training for a mini triathalon – you go girl! Take care, Loretta

    • Wow Loretta,
      Thanks so much for sharing that with me. I am so excited for you and very touched that my blog has helped.
      Keep up the great work and spread the word of recovery!!

  6. Carrie Anne says:

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  7. Vidal Martinez says:

    Just found out I have hepatitis c. Starting treatment very soon. I hear I really drains your body similar to chemotherapy.What can I do to keep my body from wasting away?

  8. Barbara says:

    I can give this post two thumbs up. This surely helps me on giving my auntie an advice to treat her chronic fatigue. I’m glad that she have been listening to me all this time that I’m talking to her. I’ve made to put this on my notes to remind her. I’m very happy that she have appreciated my effort to hear me out though I always argue with her. I’ve also suffered from chronic neck pain and I know how it feels when people don’t understand what you’ve been going through.
    Barbara recently posted..8 Tips to a Longer and Healthier LifeMy Profile

    • Thanks Barbara. I hope it has helped your Aunty in some way. It is very difficult when you are in the thick of it. Thanks for your comment, I’ll check out your blog. 🙂

  9. jeannine says:

    1 clean air 2 clean water 3 organic nutrient dense food 4 good mattress and sleep 5 low stress 6 clean housing 7 clean transportation 8 chiropractic 9 physical therapy 10 massage 11 sunbathing 12 ocean bathing

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