Recovering from Covid 19: post-viral fatigue pointers from someone with CFS

 

As with viral infections in general, Covid 19 infections can lead to long lasting or even chronic fatigue. In a conversation with a friend of mine who is in this situation, I realized that things that for me – having lived with post-viral fatigue for a while now – are second nature, are not for those more new to living with fatigue. So I thought I would share some of what has helped me, and perhaps it can help someone recovering from C19.

The general situation

Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndroms (CFS) is unpredictable, and it seems that’s the same for many recovering from C19. Our energy levels change over time and cannot easily be predicted. One day, I may be able to do a few things, other days I need to rest the whole time. I may have some energy in the morning and need to rest the rest of the day, or more in the evening and less earlier in the day. And I sometimes have more physical energy and less mental energy, or the reverse.

I am unable to live as I did, and it can be baffling, puzzling, and scary to see that both body and mind function differently from before. Even something as simple as watching a movie from beginning to end or doing mindfulness practice may be difficult if not impossible.

We react to this in different ways and it changes over time. We may experience fear for the future. Grief over the loss. Frustration over not being able to do the same as before. Anger that this happened to us. Sadness. Vulnerability. People around us may but understand and we may go through a range of reactions for that reason.

Over time, we learn to adapt to the new situation. We find practical strategies that makes our daily life easier and more enjoyable. We may even find genuine meaning in our new life.

Pratical pointers

Here are some practical pointers I have found helpful for myself. They are not in any particular order. You may want to pick just one that resonates with you and apply it to your day. And then perhaps another on another day. Over time, these may become new habits and feel easy and natural.

Most importantly, follow the advice of your doctor and specialists. If you feel your doctor is not taking your condition seriously enough, find someone else. Seek out the best medical support you can for your rehabilitation.

The essence

You may not be able to do what you did before, whether it’s physical or mental activities. And that’s OK. Your body needs rest to stabilize and recover.

Your main job is to rest. Anything else is just a bonus.

Do half of what you feel you can do. Save energy so you don’t crash and your body can heal.

Social life

It’s completely OK to say “no” to invitations. Tell them you would love to go, but are unable to because of your health. Perhaps connect in written form or on the phone or virtually instead.

In a conversation, it’s completely OK to say “I notice I am getting tired and need to rest”. When you notice you have limited energy at the start of a conversation, you can let them know and that the conversation may need to be short.

If you schedule something with someone, consider letting them know in advance that you may have to cancel and why. Canceling is completely OK. Your main priority is rest and your health.

Sometimes it’s worth spending energy on something even if you may need to rest extra later. Avoid crashes since it takes longer for your system to recover from this.

Communication

Educate those around you about your situation. Share sources with them. Or, if you are unable to, ask them to find good information and educate themselves.

Communicate. Ask for what you need. People are not mind-readers. Most people have limited personal experience with this type of fatigue. They may not know or understand what you need unless you let them know.

Tasks

Make a “hidden” to-do list with everything you need or want to do. Out of this, pick one or two and put them on your to-do list for the next day. If you do these and find you have energy to do more, you can always go back to the longer list and pick something. If you can’t do the one or two things, that’s OK too. Your main job is to rest and support your body in recovering.

See if you can find an easier way to do what you need to do. Maybe you can do tasks more slowly and with time for rest. Break a project into smaller parts and do one at a time with rest in between.

Ask for help with practical activities. If you can, pay someone to do housework or practical projects. Ask friends and family. Tell them your situation and let them know how much it would mean to you. (And also that “no” is a perfectly good answer.)

Activity window

In periods where we have more energy, it can be tempting to speed up to do as much as possible. See how it is to slow down instead and give yourself time for rest.

See if you can stay within the activity “window” where you are not doing so much that you feel worse after, and where you don’t do so little that you become more inactive than you need.

Rest

Your main job is to rest and allow your body to recover.

Rest before, during, and after activities. And rest extra to give your body a better opportunity to recover.

Find what’s quality rest for you. Set aside time for this.

Learning to receive help & changing identities

It can be challenging to learn to receive help, especially if we are used to be more self-reliant. An honest conversation around this can help. You can tell those around you that this is difficult for you and hear how it is for them.

Also, trust that people say an honest “yes” when they are helping you. And remember that helping you can give others an opportunity to feel useful and it can give them a sense of meaning.

Learning to live with fatigue and other health challenges involves a change in identities and roles. We are often identified with the roles we have, especially when these roles are seen as desirable by society, so it can be challenging to lose these identities and roles. Remember that who you are doesn’t change and you are 100% valuable independent of your roles and identities.

Social support

Find others in your situation. Find support groups on social media and elsewhere. Connect with people who understand.

Change your doctor if you are not satisfied with him or her, and if you don’t feel understood and supported.

Follow the body

Learn the signals from your body. What are the early signals of having done too much? What are the early signals of crashing. Take these serious and rest when you notice them. These signals vary but for CFS can include nausea, headache, and a “wired” feeling in the body.

Learn to be flexible and adapt to what your body asks of you. You may have planned something and it’s completely fine to cancel, postpone, or just do one part if you notice you need rest.

If you have a yes/no decision to make, for instance about an invitation, you can do a quick test. Say to yourself “I can do [the activity] if I want to, and I want to” and notice how your body responds. Does it tense? Does it relax? Then say to yourself “I can do [the activity] if I want, and I don’t want to” and notice how your body responds. Tension is a “no” and relaxation and a sense of relief is a “yes”.

Self-worth & emotions

You are 100% valuable even if you can’t do all you want to do. (Any ideas of worth tied up with our activities come from culture and are especially not useful when we find ourselves in a situation where we are required to rest and reduce our activity level.)

Whatever you feel is completely OK. It’s not wrong.

Support your body

Do simple things to support your body.

Gentle movements. Nature. Drink plenty of water. Eat mostly unprocessed foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat regularly.

Be mindful of, reduce, or avoid stimulants. These can give “false energy” and make you feel you can do more than you actually can.

Get massage, acupuncture or whatever else helps your system.

Adjust recreational activities

Any activity takes energy, even just talking or watching a movie. It’s OK to take a rest from even apparently simple activities.

Allow yourself to read, watch, or listen to something simple and enjoyable. You may not have the energy for something long or very meaningful or deep, and that’s completely OK.

Find easier way of doing what you like to do. For instance, instead of reading you can listen to audio books. Instead of going for long walks, you can go for shorter walks or just sit outside.

Identify energy thieves

Identify what drains your energy and find ways to eliminate or reduce it in your life. For instance, it’s completely fine to avoid news if it increases your stress level. Your main job is to rest and recover.

Energy thieves are found both in our daily life situations and in our thinking. It’s helpful to prioritize and chose away what’s not essential if it’s draining. If we need to do something, find ways to spend less energy doing it. And if we have stressful thoughts, it’s good to identify and question them.

Mental stress

If you struggle with your situation, it can be helpful to talk to a therapist.

It can also be helpful to learn simple and practical tools from cognitive therapy.

It’s not helpful to compare yourself to others or how you were before. Your standards are now different. Your priority is to rest and recover.

Enjoyment & Nature

Find simple things that give you enjoyment in daily life.

Nature is healing. If you can, sit outside. Enjoy the wind and the sun. Even a few minutes can be refreshing and rejuvenating.

And remember…

Your main job is to rest. Anything else is just a bonus.

Your life is not over. It’s just different. And it can still be meaningful.

Finding meaning

When we are unable to do as much as before, we can experience a loss of meaning. We may have invested meaning in activities in our previous life, so when these are gone so is that particular meaning. The good news is that we can find meaning somewhere else.

The invitation is to find meaning in our life as it is, however it is.

It can be just in watching the sky out the window and listening to the birds. Or having a cup of coffee or tea. Talking with friends and family. Engaging in a simple spiritual practice. Or perhaps offering some of our gifts to others in whatever way we are able to. It doesn’t have to be big. It’s possible to find meaning even in the small and ordinary things.

The upside

There are some upsides to the limits life puts on us, even if they can be difficult to notice at first.

What these are is unique to us.

We may have more time for something enjoyable or meaningful – perhaps time with family, friends, reading, or something else.

We may find our value independent of our activities. Discover the value and beauty in slowing down. Find genuine enjoyment in the simple things in life.

We may find that we don’t need to live up to the images we previously tried to live up to, and this is a huge relief. We may be more genuine and vulnerable with those around us and connect at a deeper level.

Spiritual practices

This won’t apply for everyone but I’ll mention it as an example of how we can adapt to a life with less energy and/or brain fog.

Spiritual practice has been important for me most of my adult life. And this period of fatigue has been a kind of retreat. I haven’t been able to continue doing some of my previous practices the way I did them, but I have found other practices and different ways of doing some of my previous practices. Mainly, I have learned to do spiritual practices in a more relaxed way and with more ease, and to weave them more seamlessly into daily life.

In that way, this period of fatigue has been a blessing.

Contact

If you have questions or comments about any of this, feel free to leave a comment or contact me.

Low energy, its consequences, and how to bring it up

 
With my chronic fatigue (CFS), I have had plenty of opportunities to notice what happens as my energy level goes up and down. When I am more fatigued, it’s as if the light is dimmed so I get to see more of the things in me lurking in the darkness. In general, I tend to become more sensitive to sounds and activity around me, and I sometimes get to see some of my stressful beliefs more clearly. Fatigue can also look a bit like depression since I don’t have the energy to engage in emotions very much. For most of us, when our energy level is lower, hangups, stressful beliefs, anxiety, depression, compulsion and more become more noticeable. So we can find benefits to low energy when it’s here anyway. It makes it easier to notice what normally is under the surface. We can notice, allow, notice how parts of us respond to it, allow that too, and perhaps meet it more intentionally, with patience, curiosity, presence, and so on. Or not. And then notice and allow that. Or not. It’s obviously good to bring the energy up, for a few different reasons. It supports our bodymind system in healing itself. It reduces many symptoms so our quality of life is higher. And it makes it easier for us to take care of what we have seen – find a different relationship to it, invite in resolution or healing for it, or simply being with it with patience and respect. How can we bring up the energy? I am sure there are many approaches out there I am not familiar with. Of the ones I personally have tried, herbal medicine and energy work (Vortex Healing) have been the most effective, in addition to rest, moderate activity (within the limits of what I can do without crashing), and improving my diet (low on the food chain, mostly avoiding dairy, yeast, refined sugar, and the most common grains). It also helps, over time, to release tension out of the body (therapeutic tremoring, TRE), resolve and clear up stressful beliefs and trauma (inquiry, parts work, Vortex healing), and reoirent in how I relate to myself, others, and the world (heart practices such as heart prayer, ho’oponopono, tonglen). Read More

Tiredness

 

Tiredness is very interesting.

It can be physiological, often from lack of sleep. It can have a significant mind component. And perhaps quite commonly, there is some of each.

In inquiry sessions – both as client and facilitator – I notice that an almost overwhelming tiredness can set in, often when the client is looking at something with a lot of velcro and seemingly threatening. When tiredness is brought consciously into the session, the experience of it can shift, and it also tends to mysteriously vanish after the apparently threatening images, words, and sensations have been more closely looked at. It may be that this tiredness is a form of protection.

In life, it may be similar. I wonder if not a part of chronic fatigue is the same impulse to protect. The tiredness is a form of protection, and if so comes from innocence, deep caring, and worried love. Tiredness protects me from being out there in the world, with all its apparent dangers, risks, disappointments, and more. (And that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a very real physiological component to chronic fatigue, and perhaps even in the cause of chronic fatigue.)

Some ways to explore tiredness:

Living Inquiries. 

Rest with the tiredness. Notice. Allow.

Feel the sensations. See how it is to be curious about them. Feel the sensations as sensations. (As much as possible. This may be much easier after doing the following inquiry.)

Inquire into the sensations, and any associated images and words. Is it a threat? Is it tiredness? Is it someone who is tired?

Kindness.

I love you.

I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. (Ho’oponopono.)

Holding satsang with.

You are welcome here.

Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.

What would satisfy you forever?

What are you really?

Dialogue/mining.

How does X relate to you? What advice do you have for him/her?

What does it mean? What would is say if it could speak?

What does it need from you?

In my experience, the kindness can be very helpful in reorienting and relate to it differently, and the dialog can do the same. What really helps is resting with what’s here, and especially feeling the sensations of tiredness, and looking at the associated images and words. When the velcro is loosened, it’s much easier to feel the sensations as sensations, and the associated images and words are recognized as images and words.

The sense of tiredness may get thinner or lifts. Or there is still a more physiological tiredness here (from lack of sleep usually) and it’s OK, it doesn’t seem like a problem, and it doesn’t have as many overlays of images and words.

This is similar to how physical pain can be explored.

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Identifications are tiring

 

Identifications are tiring.

When a story is believed and held as true, it tends to create struggle. And that’s tiring.

It takes a lot of energy. It can be draining. It can even impact our health in quite obvious ways.

If it’s that way with just one identification, imagine how tiring it is to have a whole bundle of them, as most of us do. We are, in some ways, bundles of identifications, and that’s tiring.

That’s one of the things we see when we are relieved of identifications and struggle, even if it’s only temporary.

We may be “lifted out” of identifications and glimpse the ease and simplicity of life without. (And the richness and fullness of life without identifications.)  We may examine a particular hangup or identification, and find release from it.

We may also discover it through resting with what’s here. Shift from thinking to noticing. Finding ourselves as a whole. Shift from resisting to allowing. Shift from rejecting to holding experience in kind experience. Inquire into beliefs and see that what we thought was happening isn’t. Look for and being unable to find the threat, or deficient self, or command, that initially seemed so real and solid.

I imagine that the struggle from identifications is one of the things that creates old age as our culture often thinks of it. It has little to do with a biological inevitability, and more to do with the effects of accumulated struggles over a lifetime.

Thank you for protecting me

 

I notice that fatigue and brain fog sometimes still feels wrong, a problem, or even an enemy.

So I can hold satsang with it.

You are welcome here.

Thank you for protecting me.

Thank you for your love for me.

What would satisfy you forever?

What are you really?

This helps heal my relationship to it.

From perceiving it as a problem, there is a shift to befriending it, see how it protects (the imagined) me, and see it as love…. confused love.

For instance, I see how the fatigue and brain fog protects the imagined self by allowing it to rest, and even isolate and not be out there in the (potentially dangerous) world. That may not be why the fatigue or brain fog is there, but it is one of the functions it serves.

Wishing to protect me comes from love, confused love.

What would satisfy it forever is wordless, although translated into words it’s being intentionally allowed, held in quite presence, recognized as love, held in love.

What it really is, is also wordless, although can be translated into awareness, presence, even love.

It can be welcomed, because it’s already allowed – by presence and love.

And really, this is not a formula and there is no destination. It’s a quiet curiosity. What happens if I welcome it? Is it true it’s not already welcomed? What happens if I thank it for protecting me? Is it true it’s not here to protect me? What happens if I thank it for its love? Is it true it’s not already love? What would genuinely satisfy it forever? What is it really? Read More

Need for rest

 

I have experienced an unusual need for rest over the last few years, following many years of being very active.

This shift is connected with what some would label chronic fatigue and a dark night of the soul. And, yes, I realize that those labels can be helpful for communication and navigating what’s happening, and they may also be limiting and stressful if taken as too solid and real.

Why this need for rest? There may be several answers.

(a) The body & mind is exhausted and needs rest to recover. This exhaustion may be due to previous years of high energies, both in form of kundalini and in a more everyday sense. And also living with and relating to what was unloved and unexamined in me…. being stressed by it, setting it aside, wrestling with it.

(b) It’s a time for healing. A time for being with myself, for loving and examining the unloved and unexamined. It’s a retreat. It’s nature’s way of ensuring I get time and opportunity to do this, since I didn’t chose retreat on my own.

(c) It’s an invitation for natural rest. For allowing what’s here as it is, allowing this field of experience as it is here & now. And finding myself as that which already allows it, and is it, this field of experience as it is in immediacy. Perhaps first in through rest in a conventional sense, and then living this also in activity.

(d) It may also be related to identifications. (i) As mentioned above, identifications themselves can be tiring. They can lead to stress, unease, struggle and more. (ii) Also, there may be a sense that rest – and perhaps fatigue, isolation – is safer than being active and exposed in the world. Rest becomes a form of protection. An attempt to protect the imagined self. (iii) There may also be beliefs about the fatigue itself and what it means, which can solidify or amplify the sense of fatigue and need for rest.

Read More

Illness as retreat

 

It seems not uncommon for people in a “spiritual emergency” to experience illness, which in turn may function as a form of retreat.

In some cultures, they recognize the symptoms of a spiritual emergence or emergency, and support it in various ways, including through retreats. In our culture, there is often not such an understanding, so illness may sometimes serves that function instead. It’s what’s possible for us, so it’s the direction life takes. (The lack of understanding of – and support for – these types of processes, may in itself contribute to fatigue and illness.)

The purpose of a retreat is to remove us from our daily routine, the business of daily life, and allow us time and space for meeting what’s already here.

And that’s exactly what an illness can do, and perhaps especially fatigue. (Which seems a typical symptom for some in a certain phase of a kundalini or awakening process.)

An illness allows us a retreat setting. It allows unmet, unquestioned and unloved things to surface in us, so they can be met, loved and examined.

And some of the things surfacing will, most likely, be about the illness itself. An illness is often perceived as a threat to some of our most cherished identities.

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Fatigue and spiritual emergencies

 

I wrote about this earlier, but it comes up again for me.

Fatigue is one of the common symptoms during a spiritual emergency. And there may be a few different reasons.

There is a burn out, perhaps following an initial awakening with strong energies running through the system.

There is an overwhelm due to strong energies, or wounds and trauma surfacing. Unexamined assumptions creates fear and a sense of overwhelm, this takes energy, and may lead to a sense of fatigue.

It’s part of the obscuration of the faculties (the personal will, intellect, morals etc.), it makes it so there is less energy to fuel the delusions, and this allows God (love, spirit, natural intelligence) more freedom to work on us as it wishes.

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Fatigue and spiritual emergency

 

It seems that fatigue is quite common among people going through some forms of spiritual emergency, and perhaps especially a dark night.

I can see a few possible reasons for such a connection.

A dark night of the soul typically follows a period of high energies running through the system, for instance from an initial kundalini awakening. The system may be “burnt out” from these energies, and needs to rest and so swings back.

If primal fear & dread, or wounds & trauma, surfaces, it can be experienced as overwhelming and lead to temporary fatigue. Similarly, if there is a heightened sensitivity to certain foods, chemicals, environments etc., this may lead to fatigue.

In the fatigue there is an invitation to rest, to quiet the mind and the doing. This may allow the system to reorganize on its own, with less interference from the conscious mind. Here, fatigue functions as a modern form of retreat, or a retreat for those who otherwise wouldn’t easily slow down.

Each of these may apply to me. (a) There was certainly a great deal of energy running through my system from the initial opening, and it lasted for many years. (b) When strong emotions surface, I sometimes feel a bit flattened. Since the initial awakening, my body has been quite sensitive to certain foods, chemicals and environments, and I notice this influences how alert or fatigued I feel. (c) I was very active for years before the fatigue set in (studies, work, community organizing, art, zen and more), and a fatigue may have been one of the few things that could have slowed me down. Fatigue in combination with brain fog has also slowed down my mind, which may allow processes to take place with less conscious interference.

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Fatigue as protection and love

 

In my session with Pamela Wilson, fatigue, numbness (of the heart and brain) and brain fog came up.

You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.

In what way is it innocently protecting me? Fatigue keeps me from being out there in the world, from meeting other people, from risking being hurt. And numbness and brain fog does the same.

Thoughts about how others see my tiredness

 

I notice that when thoughts tell me others will judge me for my fatigue, I feel tired, sometimes very tired.

And if I think others accept my fatigue completely, even value it, then I tend to feel energetic.

Of course, I am the one doing it all. Mind identifies with thoughts about these other people, what it means, and so on. And that brings about heaviness, separation and fatigue, or a sense of acceptance, connection and energy.

Some thoughts I notice:

She judges me for the fatigue. She won’t like me. She won’t want to be with me. She will leave me.

He thinks I am lazy. He sees me as second rate. He pities me. He dismisses me.

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Hunger, tiredness, physical pain

 

From an earlier post:

Basic physical experiences such as hunger, tiredness and pain are very interesting to explore in this way, and I notice I prefer to do it while the sensations are quite subtle and then move on to the stronger ones if or when they visit.

With hunger and tiredness, I find that certain beliefs tends to trigger and/or fuel the experience of hunger or tiredness. For instance, the thought that I’ll have food soon tends to trigger hunger. And thoughts such as I need to be rested, I won’t get enough rest tends to trigger an experience of tiredness.

Not surprisingly, resistant thoughts to the hunger, tiredness or pain tends to make the experience unpleasant. These may include I need food, I can’t function without food, I need sleep, I won’t function without more rest, I need to be rested, and pain is terrible, I can’t function with this pain, this pain is all-encompassing, pain means something is wrong, pain means something terrible will happen.

Labeling the sensations, and taking these thoughts as true, also has a role. Believing labels – even simple ones such as hunger, tiredness and pain – does a couple of things. It solidifies the experience of hunger, tiredness or pain, making it seem more real and substantial, more like a thing. And it triggers additional thoughts and stories about what it means.

So it can be quite interesting and helpful to investigate each of these types of beliefs. They each help to find what’s really there, in immediate experience, and not just what appears to be there when I believe certain thoughts about it.

Thoughts creating the experience of tiredness and hunger

 

I recently had a clearer experience of how thoughts create the experience of hunger and tiredness.

I went without food a few days, and the two times I thought I would eat soon I got very hungry. The rest of the time, not knowing when I would eat again, I felt fine. There were certain sensations in the body and stomach area, but it was not hunger.

At another time, I had the thoughts “I won’t get enough sleep” and “I need to be alert & rested”, and felt fatigued and tired. As soon as those thoughts went away, I felt fine.

With tiredness, I can see that the mind is a faithful servant to beliefs. There is the belief that I need to be rested, and may not get enough sleep, so I feel tired – which is how the mind supports me in finding rest and sleep.

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