ME/CFS and Doing Things in their Own Time

Listening to your body is really important when you have ME/CFS but not just to assess how much energy you have. I also find that when I listen very carefully my body will tell me what sort of thing it feels able to do right now. When I pay attention I find I can get a lot more done. If I don’t feel up to something, it’s often that specific thing I’m not up to; it doesn’t always mean that my productivity has totally gone for the day!
For example sometimes when I can no longer concentrate sufficiently to write I might find I can still tidy up the kitchen or make some gluten free soda bread. I don’t need a complete rest just a change of activity.  Or in the afternoons I might feel that I’ve had enough of resting but haven’t got much energy to take anything on. However I usually find that an easy task in the garden, perhaps sitting at a table re-potting a plant, leads on to me feeling like I could do a little more.
Different jobs and tasks seem to have their own time frame and if I trust that they’ll get done when the time is right (for my body) I usually find it quite easy to get things done.
It’s the truth behind the perplexing Taoist saying:
‘do nothing and nothing shall remain undone’ Lao-tse
What it really means is when you don’t force yourself to do things because you feel you must, you’ll usually find that you are naturally able to do things when the time is right.
The problem comes when I put a schedule on things and worry that this need to be done by then so I’d better do it now even though I don’t feel like it. By forcing myself I use up far more energy and tire myself out very quickly. When I trust that I don’t feel like it now so I’ll do something else instead (even if that something is resting), I usually find that I’ll get the first thing done sooner or later anyway. And when it’s a little behind schedule it is rarely as important as I originally thought it would be.
With ME/CFS this might seem very difficult when we are able to do so little. But our body will naturally prioritise for us as long as we are able to trust in the process. The problem comes when our mind tells us that we should still be able to do this now, or that people will think badly of us if we don’t do that by then.
Sometimes there are big things that really do need action that our body isn’t ready for. But in these cases the problem can be our mind telling us that we have to do this alone. What we really need to do is ask for help, or accept the help that has perhaps already been offered.
I usually like to draft my blog on a Thursday so that I can read it with fresh eyes on a Friday before I post it. But yesterday I had a bit of writers block. Instead I managed to get a couple of little tasks done that had been niggling for a while but I hadn’t felt like doing before. This morning (Friday) these words have come easily. I will leave this post now for a couple of hours so that I can review it with fresh eyes later. So what if it will be posted later than usual? It’s not that important in the grand scheme of things!
Take a risk on allowing life to be easy, on doing only what you feel like doing when you feel like doing it and see how it all works out!


5 thoughts on “ME/CFS and Doing Things in their Own Time”

  1. Yes! Totally agree with this post! Little bits done here and there as the notion takes us (or as our energy quotient allows us) can really add up… There is a lovely word to use for this sort of activity… Pootle!

    I used to always be driven to get this or that “finished”, but now I just pootle – and it may take 3 or more pootles to get the dishwasher emptied but I’m in no hurry…. a little pootle here and there just makes those big tasks simpler. 🙂

    • Hi Sally, thanks for commenting! I love the word pootle, it sums it all up perfectly. Perhaps this post should be renamed ‘the productivity of pootling’!

      Enjoy your pootling and the health benefits it provides! take care x

  2. Think I have naturally done this over the years but not accepted it well.

    It does indeed lead to most things being done in time. I need to remember that more, at the moment when I am fighting the acceptance.

  3. Hi Julie, great article!
    I thought you were doing pretty good when you mentionned baking and taking care of plants. Then I read your little description, and I so understand;) I also recovered after 6 years of extremely severe cfs-fibro. I enjoyed about 3 years of bliss and activity, I went back to studying, traveled, went hiking ect. Then the illness started creeping back in again little by little, until I was stuck in the cycle again. But I have a much better life than before due to all the wonderful things I learned the first time. No more medication, exhausting goals, toxic relationships, not too much crappy food;) I still envision healing again. I don’t want to jinx it, but is recovering again something you reflect about, despite not wanting to pressure yourself too much with goals and dreams? Of course, the recipe that worked the first time doesn’t seem to work again. Our body and soul seem to require a new set of actions to reach that goal. What’s your take on that, if you want to share? Anyways, thanks for your blog, I loved all the things I read and found myself really validated in ways I haven’t been before!

    • Hi Edith,

      I think it’s important to believe in healing and even imagine life at a higher level of healing, but only as long as you can say detached and open to wherever your journey takes you. I have an intention to move forward with my health, I identify the first few little steps, but I allow my body to guide me about when it’s right to take them.

      I also agree that what works the first time might not be enough the second time and that there are always new lessons to learn. I still aim to revisit and improve the skills that got me to recovery the first time like relaxed effortlessness, but I’m also open to any new lessons. It’s important not to strive to find them though, It’s a delicate balance between allowing dreams of healing to motivate great self-care, and finding peace with what is. I aim to rely on openness and trust.

      Wishing you a peaceful and enjoyable journey towards healing!


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