In researching the info today about a CFS Cognitive Behavior Therapy program, I come away with mixed feelings. In some circles, this type of work is highly regarded. In other circles, it is not. I think that’s because such a suggestion as simply “change the way you think” is too simplistic and borders on “your illness is all in your head”. What an afront!
Let’s take a look at some of the beginning points of this type of therapy program and see if it is likely to help you, such as the following list.
A typical cognitive behavior therapy program may involve the following measures:
- Keep a diaryThe value of keeping a diary may not be self-evident at first, but it can really pay off. Whether you write down your thoughts on paper or keep them online, it helps to see what you’ve written. It gives you a degree of validation for your illness. It also can help with things like organizing your life, such as with the “manage impaired concentration” goal below. You can keep lists of symptoms, prescriptions and the changes in how you feel. You think you’ll remember this important stuff, but it will fade with time. If you do a particular activity or project well, you can go back and look over your notes to help you see what might have worked in hindsight. It’s always 20/20!But more than that, writing down what is important to you can help you through the difficulty of managing the illness. Two great examples of that are 1) preparing for your doctor visits and 2) preparing a disability or insurance-based case. I invite you to come back to the Health Matters Show on Friday for a revealing discussion of all this week’s topics. If you do I will make available to you a “FREE” copy of my fabulous GET WELL HEALTH JOURNAL
- Adjust your schedule as needed. If you have a terribly fatiguing illness like CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), it is not only a good idea but common sense that you consider reducing your activity level. If you do slow down, rest more, work few hours, etc., this give your body a chance to recover and heal. This is something you can figure out how to do for yourself.
- Confront negative or discouraging thoughts. For me, this is a big item. Negative or discouraging thoughts can carry lots of power. Few people are able to reject all negative or discouraging thoughts at will. Whenever this type of thought pattern is with you, it can seem overwhelming and pervasive. Can you will this type of thinking away? Maybe, once in awhile, you can do that. But on your worst days, don’t count on being totally successful. I find that it takes special training and help, such as what I offer my clients, to accomplish this goal in a meaningful way. Each person has been through different degrees and different type of stress and trauma. A person with CFS often needs real help in working with such involved self-based information. It simply isn’t that easy to “confront” the negative or discouraging thoughts and they will leave you alone.
- Be flexible. Now that is a great suggestion. However, many people who are very sick, such as those with severe CFS or ME symptoms, become fairly inflexible. Change the temperature of the room and they’re miserable. Raise you voice and they’re off to find a quieter place. Introduce stress into a job situation and they cannot produce. Part of this may be because of damage to the brain. Scientists suspect that to be the case.
These results are consistent with an insult to the midbrain at fatigue onset that affects multiple feedback control loops to suppress cerebral motor and cognitive activity and disrupt local central nervous system homeostasis, including resetting of some elements of the autonomic nervous system.
So if there is damage present, you may not be capable of being really flexible. No matter how hard you try, your brain damage can influence your tolerance levels, your ability to cope and your ability to change on a dime. All you can do it try. Do what you can to be flexible; the next idea or suggestion could be the one that really helps you.
- Set limits. This is an excellent suggestion, especially when the topic is aimed at your daily expenditure of energy. Dr. Charles Lapp calls this your “energy envelope” and I wrote about this yesterday during the sub-topic of stress in the post, Lifestyle Changes for CFS. You only have so much energy each day. Think of your daily energy as being energy dollars deposited in your energy envelope. Some days you have a fat envelope with all the dollars you need; other days, you have a skinny envelope and you better use them wisely. Once you spend your energy dollars, they’re all used up and you have no more energy! That’s why setting limits with people, events, projects and the like is always a good idea.
- Prioritize. Yes, it is good to prioritize our lives. However, with the symptom of brain fog being present, prioritizing may not be something you think about. Most people suffering with intense brain fog are fairly stressed and run from putting out one fire to the other. I’m not saying that this a good pattern, just a likely one. Prioritize when you can and simply do the best that you can other times.
- Manage impaired concentration. This sounds funny to me, maybe to the point of being ridiculous. Manage your ability to “not be able to” concentrate? There are few, logical answers of how you can do that short of healing and getting well. When you feel better, you can concentrate better. Granted, there are strong, stimulant drugs that can help you concentrate. Your doctor must prescribe them, but they all have side-effects. The best answer is to find your own answers for getting well.
- Accept relapses.I’ve never known anyone with CFS who did not suffer at least a few relapses before they began to get well. I guess that’s because few people really realize the scope and severity of the illness they have. They don’t begin the process of reversing it quick enough.Some people experience relapses regularly. I knew one lady who suffered two weeks of every month, depending on her feminine cycle. Now, that was new to me, but I put nothing past CFS. Most people simply have relapses when they’ve pushed too hard, allowed too much stress into their lives or succumbed to a new bacterial or viral attack. I’m sure there are more reasons.The point in accepting your relapses is not to blame yourself for having them. Most of the time, you did nothing to cause a relapse. When you do, my suggestion is simply to learn from what you did and set a new boundary there for the future. When you find out what you can and cannot do without causing a relapse, you’ll have more success in averting them in the future.
Please come back to the Health Matters Show on Friday for the conclusion of this week of CFS. I hope to wrap this up in grand style and, as mentioned above, offer you a “FREE” copy of my GET WELL HEALTH JOURNAL! Thanks for joining me today in this discussion of CFS: Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Add your own ideas and ask questions.
Cinda Crawford, host of the Health Matters Show