How I Used Rest to Escape Push and Crash
By Kate Morgan
Note: Kate is a ME/CFS and fibromyalgia patient from Toronto. She joined our program in 2014.
I have learned a lot from the self-management program and what I’ve learned about proper resting has been the key to my stopping the cycle of push and crash.
Rests of the several types I’ll describe are the mainstays in my wellness plan. They make it possible for me to stay within my limits. No treatments, medications, supplements, work as effectively for me as my rests. They are the heart and soul of my self-management plan.
The first type is scheduled rest breaks, which I take three times a day. These rests vary from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on a combination of what my body needs and the time available. For these rests, I lay down, glasses off, lights out and with a blanket for warmth.
The first scheduled rest is in the morning after I get up, wash, dress and eat. Usually a short rest is fine, 15 to 20 minutes just to reset myself. The second rest is after lunch. Mornings are my most difficult time so I find I usually need at least 30 minutes mid- day to balance my energy.
My final scheduled rest is around 4:30. This is usually after work, and I find, depending on how my day was, I may need anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to recover from the energy output of the day.
I usually listen to a guided meditation during my rests, but if I’m not in the mood for a guided meditation, I simply watch my breath until my body feels ready to move.
I usually use a meditation because I've found that the quality of rest is as important as the length of time I rest. If I can't quiet my mind, I get up more tired than when I started. Meditation helps to quiet my busy "monkey mind."
My planned rests are my highest priority in the day and are written into my daily log sheets. They are so ingrained into my routine now that it comes quite naturally to just go do them when I need to. My partner and family are also really good about "shooing" me off to rest if I've been highly active for too long.
Pre-Exertion and Post-Exertion Rests
I call the second and third types of rest breaks pre-exertion and post-exertion rests. These are brief rest before and after any activity I rate as medium or high demand. I do them either lying down or sitting in a chair, closing my eyes and doing some deep breathing.
(Medium level activities for me usually include anything that involves standing and or bending. High level activities can involve, standing, bending, walking, lifting, stair climbing etc. Any trips outside of my home I rate as high activity.)
I do these short, paired rests throughout the day as often as needed. For example, before I go for a walk, I'll lie down for 15 minutes. Then, when I get home from the walk, I lie down for another 15 minutes.
If I’m unloading the dishwasher, I'll do one tray, go sit down for 5 to 10 minutes then return and do the 2nd tray and then sit down again for 5 to 10 minutes.
My three planned daily rests keep me refreshed and help me to live within my Energy Envelopes. And my pre-exertion and post-exertion rests allow me to do "extra activities" throughout my day without increasing my symptoms or causing a relapse.
Mini Rests and Out-of-House Rests
In addition to those ways that I incoporate rest into my life, I use two additional types of rest on an “as-needed” basis. I call them mini rests and out-of-house rests.
I take quick rest breaks throughout the day if I’m more fatigued than normal, get a sudden “hit by a truck” exhaustion or have been more active than expected. These breaks can be as simple as sitting quietly in a chair with my eyes closed for 5 minutes or taking an additional flat rest for 5 to 15 minutes.
Lastly, I’ve found it helpful to take a walker with me if I'm going to be out and about in the world. With my walker handy, I am able to sit down as soon as I start to feel increased fatigue, muscle pain or weakness.
As soon as I feel any of those symptoms, I push my walker off to the side, sit and do some deep breathing.WhenI feel the fatigue or pain lift a bit, usually within 5 minutes, I carry on, but I repeat the process as soon as I feel tired again. If I don’t “perk” up quickly I take it as a sign that I need to be heading home for a full flat rest.
Additional Rest-Related Strategies
As a reminder to take my rests, I've programmed my cell phone to chime every two hours to remind me to check in with myself and either rest or change my activity: move if I've been sitting too long, stretch out if I've been knitting or go lay down if it is my rest time.
Also, I’ve found that sometimes my body starts to feel energetic or “wired” about 8 or 9 at night, just when I need to be winding down for the long rest we call sleep. I’ve found that a hot bath or use of the hot tub in the evening, followed by a flat rest, some gentle stretches and a short guided meditation helps me relax, get "unwired" and able to fall sleep.
I would also like to note that in addition to needing multiple rests every day, I have found that I need to avoid having too much rest, which can actually increase my fatigue and muscle pain. So I have an ongoing challenge to find the right amount of rest, not too little and not too much.
To wrap up, I have found that to avoid the push and crash cycle it is essential that I have a minimum of three scheduled rests periods per day, as well as several pre- and post-exertion rests based on my activity level.
In addition, I make use of mini rests if my symptoms require it, and I take out-of-house rests using a walker when I’m out in the world.
Using the various self management strategies I learned through the introductory class, I feel much more in control of my life and my symptoms, but the key to my stability are my five types of rest.