Starting with a new illness or something like M.E and adrenal fatigue can be tough. Post diagnosis Everything you knew, and the way of life you were living, often grinds to a halt as everything becomes focused on your new illness. How to manage it. How to keep surviving. Finding a new way of living can be confusing and let’s face it change is hard! Using routine for M.E and adrenal fatigue recovery can be a way to help you take steps forward and give you some balance so you can move towards thriving, not just surviving each day.
What’s in a routine..?
For the purposes of this article when discussing your routine I am talking about all the things you choose to do in a day.
While it can be a relief to finally put a name to the symptoms you’ve been battling. When you are newly diagnosed with M.E / Chronic fatigue or adrenal fatigue it can often be just the start of a long and difficult journey. M.E and fatigue can leave you feeling like a shell of your former self. The fatigue, brain fog, dizziness and pain (Not to mention a whole host of other symptoms) can mean some days getting out of bed is too much.
In the very early days rest is exactly what your body needs of you, so spending a day in bed is no bad thing. But we all know it isn’t healthy for you or your body to spend any prolonged length of time in bed.
This is where building yourself a new routine can help.
Setting yourself a number of things to achieve each day can not only increase your strength and mobility but also improve your mental health and mindset during a difficult time & give you hope that things will get better.
Why does routine work?
Both M.E and adrenal burnout are believed to occur due to overuse of your body’s fight or flight response.
Your body is not build for long term stress. The fight or flight response you have when you feel stress, fear, or danger is meant to be a quick burst of adrenaline and energy to allow you to run away.
If that energy and adrenal is not used and stays in your body, and if it is repeatedly happening over a prolonged period of time, your body is never allowed to enter the ‘rest and digest’ phase of this cycle.
What does that mean? It means that your body never enters a relaxed state where it can heal itself, nurture itself, or get proper rest. This is a huge negative affect on the inflammation in your body, your ability to fight infections, weight gain, lack of sleep (or lack of restful sleep), messes up your hormones. And much much more!!
When your body is constantly releasing cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline other hormones such as progesterone, oestrogen, and testosterone become unbalanced. Your body is unable to metabolise all the adrenaline and cortisol in your system and your adrenal glands become overworked.
This is called adrenal fatigue. But in reality it is where your brain and adrenals are not communicating properly. This leads to the feeling of constant fatigue and all the other symptoms associated with adrenal burnout that you already know..
When your body gets to this stage it can take a while for you to get things back to normal.
How does it work ?
A routine for M.E and adrenal fatigue recovery is simple but can also be anything you want it to be.
The aim of giving yourself a routine is to
1) get you into the habit of using the same amount of energy each day and therefore balance out your body’s energy expenditure.
2) to give you some direction, some goals, and something to aim towards
3) help you feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
To start with, the early days of your recovery can simply be to get out of bed, have a bath, eat, and put clean pj’s on. Whilst very minimal tasks they get you out of bed, make you feel better for being clean and refreshed.
In giving you a routine is that by repeating the same few take each day over a prolonged period of time your body becomes used to that energy expenditure and is no longer exhausted after doing those things. As time progresses you can then add something else to your routine, or spend a little longer doing a task or activity in your routine.
Stretching your limits and building stamina. Slowly.
Bear in mind this happens over months and years, not weeks. You add 10-15 minutes extra to your day each week or each fortnight or even as slowly as each month. Depending on how that extra time makes you feel.
This also applies to your sleep and sleeping pattern. It is very common with M.E and burnout to feel like you need to sleep all the time, to nap during the day too. If you are waking up and still feeling exhausted or like you haven’t slept, even after 10+ more hours of sleep. Then you definitely need to use this method to help heal your body and balance out your system.
Of course your routine is only a small fraction of the healing process. But to start with it is enough to help you feel as if you are making some progress and getting some normality back into your life.
To find out all the things you can do to heal and recover from M.E, chronic & adrenal fatigue you can read my book. Which breaks everything down into simple steps for you to follow at your own pace.
Planning your day
To start with the plan or routine you create for yourself each day will likely be just the necessities. Things like washing, getting dressed, and feeding yourself.
On some days these will be exhausting enough for you. If they are all the tasks you can complete, that is still an achievement!
If you are able to complete this part of your routine and still feel good that is when you can start adding other activities to your day. Fun activities.
Things like walks in nature are extremely restorative and healing. Short visits with friends. Being creative. Reading a good book. Just an extra 15 minutes of one of these activities is enough to start with. Then as time goes on 15 minutes becomes 20 or 30 minutes.
These are all things that can be healing and help you start to build your energy and stamina.
A helpful energy planning exercise
Start by listing all of the things you used to do with your days before you got sick. Include the things you enjoy and find fun.
Of all the items on your list mark with an ⤴︎ the things that give you energy. Life you up and make you happy.
These are the things you want to either keep or modify for your current situation and slowly start to add to your days.
If none of the things you used to do fill you with a sense of joy now. That’s ok too. You just need to experiment a bit more.
It is often the case that everything we used to do. The life we used to lead. They don’t fit us anymore. If your actions are the cause of your current situation it makes sense that a part of your healing becomes rediscovering what it is you truly love doing. What you want from life. Who you truly are.
These are all pretty deep questions that come to the surface when you are walking the healing journey path.
NB. While you may feel energetic. It is worth noting that you should always bear in mind the limits of your energy each day. Over doing it today will have a negative effect on tomorrow’s energy.￼￼ That is unfortunately the reality of recovery with M.E and adrenal fatigue.
It is always tempting on a good day to do too much. Then feel the effects for days after.￼
If you have been struggling with a regular sleep pattern then you need to take this into account too. The idea here is to reduce the number of hours you sleep and stop any naps during the day. Calculate the current number of hours you are sleeping. Then the ideal number of hours you’d want to sleep. If you are currently waking at 8am but going to bed at 6pm that’s 14 hours sleep. Way more than we need.
Aim to get your sleep to 9 or ten hours a night with no naps. You can achieve this slowly by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier on a morning each week, and going to bed 10 minutes later.
In this example 8am to 6pm would become
Week 1 — 7:45am to 6pm
Week 2 — 7:45am to 6:15pm
Week 3 — 7:30am to 6:15pm
Week 3 — 7:30am to 6:30pm
And so on. If you feel like you are coping well with these 15 minute increments each week you can even try adding 15 minutes at each end of your day.
Only do what your body can cope with and what feels right for you.
Eg. of a routine for M.E & Adrenal fatigue recovery
Are you are feeling a little stuck with this? Here’s an example of how you can start to build your own routine.
As you can see this is a really simple example. It is best to start with the basics when you are starting out.
You can see I have left space for recovery time after a social engagement. It is often the case that you need time to recover from things like this. So don’t forget to plan those in too.
I have also included creative time as this will help improve your mood and mindset. As well as consistent time in nature and movement. These are the important basics and foundations you need for starting your recovery. So I wholeheartedly recommend them!
This is only a Monday to Friday plan. I have left weekends off, but you can understand the basic principles from what I’ve created so far.
If you can build a routine through the early stages of treatment and recovery. It works to bring a sense of normality to help you manage your energy each day so you aren’t overdoing it. It can reduce the number of flareups you have. As well as helping you to feel positive, set goals, and improve your mental and physical well-being.
I also want to caveat all of the above and say that obviously if you are suffering a crash or a bad day you cannot expect your body to function. If you know you are struggling rest. Give yourself the grace and space to heal. Try again tomorrow.
Not every day needs to be super productive. Part of healing your M.E and adrenal fatigue is accepting a slower pace of life. Accepting that each day may be different. Routine for M.E and adrenal fatigue recovery is only successful if you allow yourself the space to change your days with the ebb and flow of your body and energy. It should NOT ne a regimented regime you stick to no matter what!
Your wellbeing is the key and the goal. Ask yourself ‘does this support my healing?’ If the answer today is no. That’s ok.
If you would like other resources to help you with the early stages of ME and adrenal fatigue recovery there are other posts on my blog. You can find these in the Living with ME category.￼￼
Routine for M.E & adrenal fatigue recovery is a slow process to take your time & take it a day at a time.