Have you ever noticed it takes you a couple of days to recover from a stressful event or over exertion? A 48-hour recovery period is something you commonly hear about from people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
We don’t yet know why we need a couple of days to recover from … well, just about anything, but a lot of chronic fatigue syndrome research is focusing on post-exertional malaise—the intensified fatigue and flare of other symptoms following exercise.
Several research groups have identified genetic and blood abnormalities following exercise and have documented participants’ inability to perform as well on the second day.
What we do know about this recovery period is that we’re stuck with it. For many of us, it means taking it really easy for a couple days after anything big, such as a holiday, a vacation, or an unexpected stressful event.
It can be a real problem for people who work or go to school full time. Just getting through a day can drain you enough to need recovery time, yet you have to get up the next morning and do it all over again. So while you may feel pretty decent on Monday, especially if you rested the whole weekend, Tuesday will be a little hard, Wednesday a little harder still. By Friday? It’s not pretty.
When your routine is enough to drag you down, you don’t have the reserves to deal with anything else on top of it. Who hasn’t been there?
Half way through the week, you have to deal with some kind of crisis that gets your adrenaline pumping. Now you have more to recover from.
Any of our symptoms can flare up after a stressful or strenuous event. The most common ones include:
- fibro fog/brain fog
- flu-like symptoms (in chronic fatigue syndrome)
Setting Aside Recovery Time
It’s likely not realistic for you to just go to bed for two days after every work day, or every stressful event in your personal life.
What we can do, though, is recognize what circumstances are likely to trigger a need for recovery and plan accordingly. For instance, don’t do anything for the two days after Christmas. When possible, schedule time off after big events you know are coming.
If you have some flexibility in your work schedule, you might want to consider a day off in the middle of the week so you can do some recovering before jumping back in. Taking more breaks may also prevent you from needing as much recovery time.
When you can’t schedule an actual recovery period or rearrange your life around your chronic illness, make sure to pare down as much as you can. Order groceries online rather than trying to shop near the end of your work week. Can someone else get your kids to soccer? Can your kids help more around the house? What jobs can you delegate to someone else? Call in the reinforcements!
You may also benefit from getting extra rest before a big event. That could help your body get through whatever is coming a little better, which might speed up your recovery time.
Life doesn’t always work out how we want. You’ll probably have to go to work or school with a symptom flare or try to get laundry done on your days off instead of resting, because when else are you going to do it, right? When that’s your reality, it becomes all about pacing yourself so you can keep moving forward.
Also, learn to be patient with yourself. At times, you’re like a car that runs out of gas but keeps going anyway. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it’s difficult to keep push, or when you have to take some time off in order to feel better and be a better employee or student.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about this symptom, especially if it’s becoming a big part of your life.
He/she may have ideas about treatments or lifestyle changes that might be able to help you.
You may also benefit, in general and when it comes to recovering, if you build better habits when it comes to sleep and your diet.