If I had a quarter for every email I’ve received in the last few weeks, asking me to hurry and tell how to recover from fatigue, I’d be a rich woman!
Today’s your day. I’m going to cover the basic steps to beating fatigue, although a few of these steps deserve more detail than I can go into in one blog post. Nevertheless, here we go:
1. Spend less energy than you make.
You’ll find many explanations of this idea online. A great story you should read is “The Spoon Theory,” written by a woman who lives with chronic illness. One my mother uses with me is the “Checkbook Theory,” meaning that if I spend more energy than I can recuperate from with a good night’s sleep and some healthy food — I’ll bounce! (Hitting a brick wall is more like it…)
There are many variations of this important point, but the key is that you’ll never feel better if you don’t STOP doing the things that got you exhausted in the first place. (Review common reasons for feeling fatigued here.)
I’ve got a longer explanation of this, including the point system I personally use to be sure I’m not overdoing. I can easily get frustrated with myself, wishing I was stronger, had more endurance, or as much energy as So-And-So has. But this is the grace God has given me at this point in my life (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). I have to accept my limitations.
2. Stop using excessive energy to simply digest your food.
The largest drain on your energy is the digestion of your food. Isn’t that amazing? For that reason, you simply must take steps to reduce any unnecessary drain. Yes, you have to eat. No, you don’t really have to eat junk.
I’d like to quote a few paragraphs from “Diet and Recovery from Chronic Disease,” by Ron Schmid, M.D.
It’s important to realize that we’re considering here the optimal diet for people with very serious medical problems. What may work well for the vast majority of basically healthy people is very different from the far more stringent routine that seriously ill people may require.
The observations of [Dr. Weston A. Price], the early anthropologists and Dr. Gerson are entirely consistent with my own observations over the past twenty-five years. While most patients feel better and make at least a partial recovery from medical problems by adopting a diet that includes more of the foods Price showed us are critical to good health, at the same time many limit the extent of their recovery by their inability to go further in eliminating the refined foods that cause problems, while failing to include adequate amounts of superior foods.
With this background, here are what I believe to be the two most common mistaken thoughts my patients have in attempting to recover from serious medical problems.
1. A little bit of refined foods won’t hurt.
2. A modest amount of high-quality animal foods is enough.
I mentioned above the fact that chronic diseases often linger and recur. What appears to happen is that we go far enough with our diets to alleviate symptoms, but not far enough for long enough to completely change the body in a way that eliminates all traces of the disease… And the kicker is that even small amounts of poorly chosen or even less-than-optimal foods appear to slow down or derail the healing process.
This is another key to healing that can really get me discouraged! How can I prepare and eat healthy and nourishing food (and there is a difference between these two!) when I’m already exhausted? I suggest that you take the time to go through my free 8-week health class for a thorough explanation of the diet you’ll need to recover. We’ll also cover a fatigue-healing diet in a future blog post.
3. Sleep more than you think you need to.
A common frustration I hear is that women who are fatigued and who want to sleep, simply can’t sleep. I also remember days when I could not get out of bed in the morning nor rid myself of an overwhelming desire to sleep the entire day away.
The ability to sleep is controlled by the hormones that direct your circadian rhythms. God designed our bodies to be awake when the sun is the in the sky and to sleep when the sun has set. This is far from how we really live in our culture, and after years of “burning the candle at both ends,” we’re paying the price.
If you mean business with yourself about feeling better, be very strict on these points:
- Sleep in complete darkness. If you must get up in the night (to use the restroom or nurse a baby), stay in the dark. Avoid all light (LED lights, night lights, alarm clocks, etc.) except the moon that God created. Use darkening shades on your windows.
- Get as much sleep as you can. Go to bed early. Sleep late. Take naps. When you are recuperating, you’ll start by feeling like a truck ran you over. You need more sleep than just the typical eight hours at first. Lighten up your schedule to make this possible.
- As you start to recover, rise in the morning with the sun. Take a look at the early morning sun and let its light shine into your retinas. This will help you reset your circadian rhythms. (No, you won’t “feel” like getting up. Too bad. Be a drill sargent with yourself.)
- When you’re tired, rest. Learn to pay attention to how you feel and rest before you crash. Your emotions are good indicators of how much rest you need. If you feel angry, anxious, or ready to cry, you have probably overdone it and should try to take a nap.
- Take one day out of every seven to completely rest. The Bible says to rest from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I figure God is my Creator and knows best, so this is when I rest. By rest, I mean that I do no cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening, heavy thinking, shopping, or any other work. Instead, I read, put my feet up, sleep, play games with my children, laugh and enjoy my family. I cook ahead for that day so that I have an entire 24 hours off from my responsibilities.
These steps are enough for one week, and I’ve possibly overwhelmed you with just this. We’ll continue next week with a look at conquering stress, taking supplements, and exercise.