ME/CFS and Transforming the Experience of Rest

After all the aspects of my life that I lost when I got ill, I think the next most difficult thing to deal with was the amount of time I had to rest. It felt boring, uncomfortable, unproductive, wasteful, frustrating, irritating…… Even now that I’m relatively well, (and it’s only because I make sure I rest adequately) resting can still seem quite a bind. However enforced rest, like all other challenges, offers many opportunities for learning, so now when I’m feeling annoyed about having to rest I aim to recognise those opportunities and transform the experience of rest into growth. I’ve found that enforced rest has offered me the following opportunities:

The opportunity to learn how to ‘be’ rather than having to ‘do’ all the time: Before this illness I was a very active person. Apart from sleeping I didn’t really rest, all my free time was taken up with doing things. There’s no denying life was fun, but I never understood the value of ‘being’ I always had to be ‘doing’. Enforced rest gave me the opportunity to learn how to just ‘be’. I learned how to value myself even without doing. I learned how rewarding is it to really connect with myself, and how to deepen my connection with everything and everyone around me. Without enforced rest I’d never have taken the time to learn these important lessons.

The opportunity to learn how to relax: I’ve learned that rest doesn’t all have to be passive. Investing some of my rest time in relaxation exercises, meditation, yoga and t’ai chi can be more replenishing than just doing nothing. Relaxation can be hard when our sympathetic nervous system is stuck in overdrive. The benefits of learning how to relax have been huge. The skills I’ve learned during these practises can be employed whenever I feel stress or tension building up. Using relaxation skills at a preventative stage is far easier than applying them when you’re already tense or stressed.

The opportunity to learn how to enjoy resting: Because I had to spend so much time resting it seemed important to learn how to make that time more enjoyable. I had to teach myself that reading and TV didn’t have to be intellectually stimulating because they were too tiring if they were. I had to teach myself to enjoy light hearted easy-going entertainment. Letting go of that intellectual snobbery has meant that pleasure is now much easier to come. I’ve also had to learn to take pleasure in the little things. I’ve learned how essential oils can accentuate my enjoyment of rest.

The opportunity to learn how to let go of being responsible: To truly enjoy rest I’ve had to learn how to let go of my feelings of being responsible. Rest used to be part of my responsible attitude. ‘If I rest effectively I’ll have enough energy to do what I have to do afterwards’. However that kind of ‘rest as a means to an end’ is never that restful. It is much more rewarding when you are fully able to give yourself permission to let go. Learning that skill has been truly liberating.

The opportunity to learn how to choose the way you think about things: Identifying that the ways I was thinking about having to rest was contributing to me feeling miserable, was a breakthrough for me. Challenging these thought pattern has taught me that I can change my experience by choosing to think about things more positively. Having to spend so much time resting has given me time to refine my positive thinking skills.

The opportunity to create space for creativity: I’ve learned that when I truly let go and just be I create a space within me where creativity is born. Life becomes easier when you let go because solutions just come to you. Without learning how to really rest and let go I would have missed out on all the fantastic rewards of my natural creativity.

Next time you feel fed up with having to rest, could you take the opportunity to grow from it instead? Have you learned anything useful during your rest time?

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Making rest a positive strategy that you enjoy

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