I recently had a session with a client who I’ve been helping for a while now. She first came to me around 18 months ago when her fatigue challenge was in its early stages. At that stage she’d been struggling to figure out what on earth was going on for far too long and was struggling to find any stability in her symptoms – let alone feel hopeful of achieving any improvements.
As is often the case with the people I’m helping, one of the first things we worked on was getting her into a better level of acceptance about what was going on. As I said to her at the time, it wasn’t about LIKING what was going on (there really wasn’t much to like!) – but it was important to find a level of understanding about the fact that it was real, it was happening and that (for now) it meant life was different for her.
After all, the opposite of acceptance would be a word along the lines of “denial” or “resistance”….and these aren’t words that are resourceful or constructive if you’re looking to improve your situation.
I have many tools and approaches that I use to guide someone into that more accepting mindset – we even talk about whether “acceptance” is the right word for them. Not everyone loves that word, and so I often help them choose an alternative…it’s important that we use words that our brains are comfortable with - otherwise, it’ll mean making changes is even more of a struggle.
My client soon realised that she could be accepting while also being completely determined to improve. The two aren’t mutually exclusive! And once this started to slot into place, the rest of the help and guidance I introduced her to was much more readily followed.
Skip forwards almost a year since our last formal coaching session and she contacted me to ask if she could book in a catch-up. She’d become a little disappointed in the flattened trajectory of her recovery journey, and wanted my help to spot any new things she could be doing. Life was back to being fairly good again for her – she was back working part time, able to socialise every now and then, and was back tending to her beloved garden. Which was wonderful to hear! But she hadn’t felt any further positive shifts for a while now.
What became clear, was that she’d become almost a bit too accepting of the fact that she had a health challenge. Although she was doing much better, she was still far from back to her pre-fatigue level of wellness but had successfully developed some interesting ways to allow her to do more.
She’d almost become too good at coping. If she knew she had a dinner with a friend one evening, she’d spend the day or two before resting as much as possible and would accept that the day after might even involve a few lengthy periods in bed. She knew by doing this she’d avoid the dreaded Post Exertional Malaise (PEM). Which, of course, felt much better than when I first met her, and the smallest thing would trigger PEM.
But it was keeping her in a holding pattern, rather than allowing her system to continue to heal and improve. It was still a form of ‘booming and busting’ and was far from the lovely consistent steady state that I know people need to find in order to achieve wonderful improvements.
We talked things through and identified a few key things that she’d allowed to slip. For example: her healthy eating regimes; keeping her energy levels consistent every day; and remembering to follow the helpful resting pattern that we knew worked well for her.
I ensured she left our session with renewed levels of motivation and determination to get back on track with these helpful elements of her plan! Far from her needing my time to hear about new things to try, it was all about getting back to the fundamental basics that had previously been so helpful.
She fully acknowledged that she’d become a bit settled at her current level of health – she was still far from back to her pre-fatigue level, but life had become pretty good again and she’d let go of the reins a bit. She’d normalised things a bit too much but was now full of enthusiasm to get back on plan!
The great news is that I heard back from her recently and she’s experienced a couple of lovely positive shifts in her level of wellness since we last spoke. It’s difficult to know if this would have happened anyway in time, of course. But I suspect that her renewed sense of discipline around the helpful elements of her plan allowed these improvements to happen sooner than they would have done otherwise.
Fatigue journeys can be lengthy and require so much daily effort to keep working towards achieving improvements. It’s no wonder that many of us are tempted to have a bit of a break from it all every now and then. An easing of your approaches isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and as long as you keep enough of the helpful things going there’s a very good chance you won’t slip backwards. BUT don’t let yourself settle at that level for too long. It really is worth getting back into that determined place and carrying on until you feel you’re back where you want to be. Accepting what’s going on is important but remember there’s a difference between a helpful acceptance of your current reality; and deciding that you’re going to settle with this being as good as it’s going to get.
In this case, my client was a good chunk of the way through her improvement journey when this kicked in – but I see this over-acceptance occurring in people who are much earlier in their plans too. I hope this article encourages you to have an honest review of your current daily approaches, and perhaps a nudge to get back on track if needed.
It really does take a lot of ongoing effort to get your life back from a fatigue-related health journey. But take it from someone who’s done it…it really is worth it!!
P.S. Much of the help I gave this client is covered in my Four Week Fatigue Rescue programme. I currently have a wait time of several months for my 1:1 coaching help and so this programme is absolutely the quickest way to hear my guidance on these important basics – and to get my help as you start to build the right plan for YOU. Click here to find out when the next intake starts.