Coping with Chronic Illness Syndromes

There is a lot we don’t know yet about post-infectious long-haul syndromes and more will be revealed with time and research. However, what we do know about healing doesn’t change much, with few exceptions.

Here are 10 things I have found helpful for patients who struggle with many types of prolonged illnesses that frequently include fatigue and pain:

1) Give up the search for one thing to explain why you still feel sick and take a systems view of yourself of your full ecology including your family and cultural context. 

2) Plan for incredibly slow and gradual progress in movement therapies and exercise. How gradual this is cannot be over-emphasized.

3) Biofeedback training for heart rate variability, temperature regulation, or breathing, along with a committed mindfulness practice of whatever works for you to re-regulate the nervous system and support healing. 

4) Sleep following what we already know about how to improve quality sleep without it taking on obsessive focus. Accept that sometimes you can’t sleep as you would like to.

5) Deep recovery found with healthy relationships time outdoors.

6) Meaningful and manageable work must match your current level of functioning, not previous, or relapse is inevitable.

7) Frequent regular doses of down-time and hobbies.

8) Medication support will be appropriate for some people, some of the time, with special caution to minimize the traps of polypharmacy (taking multiple medications to offset the side-effects of another, often resulting in an overall decrease in function and wellbeing).

9) Eat a non-standard American diet. One that includes many more live, real foods than before without allowing the particulars of any one meal to become an obsession.

10) Lastly, your recovery may include trying unexpected medical devices such as a high-salt diet or compression clothing that are frequently helpful for autonomic dysfunction. Work together with your health care provider to weigh the risks and benefits.