ME/CFS: Some Minor Obstacles to Relaxed Effortlessness

If asked what one thing contributed most to my recovery the first time around, I would answer achieving an attitude of relaxed effortlessness in all that I did. There are some pretty major blocks to relaxed effortlessness such as anxiety, stress and anger, but once any such issues are worked through relaxed effortless becomes a matter of day to day practise.

However, even with practise and intention there are certain things that tend to get in my way. The following minor obstacles are things that I look out for so that I may catch myself early if my easy going manner is mislaid.

The cold

The cold can be an enemy to relaxation as the body will curl up and tense muscles to try to conserve and generate heat. If I’m not dressed warmly enough when I go outside I find myself automatically walking faster than my usual relaxed pace, faster than I should if I’m trying to avoid effort. Similarly when I’m sitting still (especially if I’m distracted by working on my laptop) I can find that I’ve got too cold and have started to tense up and hunch my shoulders. By making sure I’m dressed warmly enough for the room and taking regular breaks to move around a bit I am more likely to be able to keep myself relaxed.


It’s incredibly hard to rush without becoming forceful and tense. I find that even if I am late, if I can shake off my sense of urgency, moving at a relaxed effortless pace tends to get me there just as quickly. My main strategy for tackling this issue is to aim to give myself plenty of time for everything so that I never have to rush. Tackling a sense of urgency is harder because first you have to notice it, then you have to challenge it with the trust that being chilled out will be just as efficient. One you’ve tested this theory out regularly it becomes easier but I generally prefer to get up earlier and not to have to rush.

The completion compulsion

This is probably one of my biggest challenges: my compulsion to complete a task when I’m getting near the end. Sometimes I might just want to complete a part of a task at a particular stage because it seems a neat way of doing it, rather than allowing my energy levels to dictate how much I do and when I stop. When I’m getting tired and need a break, attempting to finish something will often result in my pushing myself; in my having to make an effort and in losing my sense of relaxation. Achieving relaxed effortlessness involves being aware of when you are becoming tired, paying attention to the cues and acting on them regardless of how close you are to finishing what you are doing.

Once we are aware of the obstacles to our goal we have the ability to find ways around them: to plan strategies or develop new skill. The obstacles that are the hardest to tackle are the ones that we are unaware of. What gets in the way of you approaching life with an attitude of relaxed effortlessness?

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What to look out for to help you use your energy more carefully

5 thoughts on “ME/CFS: Some Minor Obstacles to Relaxed Effortlessness”

  1. Achieving relaxed effortlessness is possibly my greatest challenge. When I go on a holiday I notice I am able to be so much more active, because everything feels like a choice. When I come home the pressure to do chores, or other things that feel like commitments ramps up my stress hormones and uses up so much more energy. I try using my breath at these times, and sometimes it helps, but not always. I know it is an attitudinal issue, but I am struggling to make a significant change in this area.

  2. Hi Amanda, thank you for commenting.

    It can be so hard letting go of expectations about what chores need doing and what commitments need fulfilling. For me I first needed to reach an acceptance of my illness and limited ability, through grieving the loss of my old life. Only then was I able to make the choice to put my health first. Even then it became annoying that I felt I had to waste my precious energy on chores when I’d rather use it on more fun things.

    Some things I’ve learned to let go of completely (e.g. my bedroom gets tidied about twice a year only when I feel like it) other things I’ve learned to see as a positive choice, for example I choose to have a hygienic kitchen and regularly wash up and tidy! My post on positive reframing talks about this in more detail.

    The bottom line is being able to offer ourselves sufficient compassion to allow ourselves to do as little as we need to, to be as healthy as possible.

    I hope you find your way to a more relaxed approach to chores and commitment soon. Often changing an attitude can seem really tricky until suddenly you find the right key!

    Best wishes.

    • Thanks for your kind and supportive reply. It has been helpful in that You have made me realize that I so have more grieving to do. I’ve been sick quite a while, and had some counseling to help with the initial obvious and substantial losses, but I can see that my health has worsened in the last year and I haven’t really come to terms with the change. So thanks for pointing me towards that insight.
      All the best.

  3. A great post-just been assessed by occupational therapists from a cfs service and we talked about the fact that when i was well and working i was a great completer/finisher which meant i worked to a high standard and ran an efficient department, they advised me that this mindset is detrimental when we have a chronic illness andi am trying to let go of my urge to finish tasks .several times a day your phrase of relaxed effortless pops into my head and i slow down and consider what i’m doing x

    • Thanks for commenting Julie. You make a great point about how it’s often ways of being that used to served us well that now don’t fit with how we have to live our lives that are so difficult to challenge. It’s great to have that awareness though! I’m glad the phrase relaxed effortless is proving useful for you!


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