I felt totally exhausted and my mind was reeling when I reached my house after a few hours at the university. Immediately after I had entered my room, I lay down on my couch, hoping that my symptoms and suffering would subside. My wish, however, was not granted.
Lying on my couch, my mind was going a hundred miles a minute, occupied with worries about how sick my body felt, grief for the losses I had already experienced, and fear for the losses I might experience in the future due to having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Before I had come down with my illness, I would lie down in bed when I was sick, and I would fall asleep or become calmer soon as a result of the short rest. Since I have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, however, the tired-but-wired feeling that I was experiencing prevented my body from gaining any relaxation or much needed rest.
I was suffering, like I had never suffered in my life before. My life felt like I was experiencing hell on earth. I remember my biggest wish at that time like it was yesterday: “I would give anything, just to be able to lie down and rest without suffering. Even if I would never be able to regain my full health again,” I thought, “I just wish that I’d feel some calmness and peace of mind again.
I was experiencing the “bad” type of rest
In the situation I just described, I was experiencing the first type of rest, the type where we try to rest the way we used to do it before we got ill with CFS or Fibromyalgia. Once we get ill, this type of rest no longer works, because of the tired-wired feeling that is very common among CFS and Fibromyalgia patients.
If it wasn’t enough that this type of rest causes us to suffer so much, this type of rest double whammies us in that it hurts our chances for regaining our health. The tired-wired feeling perpetuates the vicious stress cycle present in many patients, which in turn further exacerbates our symptoms and sickens our body.
It’s this “bad” type of rest that can turn our life into hell on earth. It’s what many of us with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia are stuck in – until we learn about the alternative:
How I turned hell into heaven – or bad rest into good rest
I first learned about this “good” type of rest when I watched Ashok Gupta’s Advanced ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia Recovery Program. When I applied the techniques from the program, I experienced one of the most amazing moments of my recovery journey.
All of a sudden, the heaviness and darkness that I was experiencing since I had become ill, the worrying and thinking in loops, dropped away — as if I had woken up from a terrible dream. I felt like a poison had been extracted from my heart and mind. My heart filled up with joy and my mind felt clearer. Using the techniques I learned in the Gupta’s program allowed me to drop the tired-wired feeling and engulf myself in a state of calm, relaxed peace.
I was experiencing the “good” type of rest, which I like to call “healing-state rest”. When we’re experiencing healing-state rest, our nervous system calms down and allows for true renewal and healing.
If experiencing tired-and-wired feeling was hell-on-earth, then this state is like being in heaven. And it’s not only just like heaven! A Buddhist scholar mentioned that the equanimity and peace we experience in this state comes very close to what the Buddha called ”Enlightenment.”
Enough praise for healing-state rest? Now let’s learn how to experience it.
The three stages of entering healing-state rest
I’d like to show you the stages you’ll pass through as you’re entering healing-state rest. While it requires a bit of determination to enter healing-state rest at first, it becomes very enjoyable a few minutes into it.
If you’re unable to reach this blissful state on your own, let me support you. Sign up for a free health and happiness clarity session, and I’ll coach you through the process.
- Reduce the tired-wired feeling. We reduce the tired-wired feeling by getting out of our mind and grounding ourselves in our body. Here’s how to do it:First, in your mind—with gentleness, yet confidence—say “Stop” to yourself. The goal of this first step is to let go a bit of all the thoughts and worries that occupy our mind when we experience the tired-wired feeling.Next, put as big of a smile on your face as you can muster (a fake smile is perfectly OK). While you keep smiling, take in a deep, slow breath.Then breathe out slowly, still smiling happily. Try to breathe out all worry and thoughts that are still on your mind.Finally, feel where your feet are and then feel your hands. While the first steps were mostly about disassociating from your thoughts, this step is all about grounding yourself in your body.This simple technique alone, if done repeatedly, can go a long way to get you to calm down your thoughts and nervous system.
- Pour out the content of your mind. If, after step 1), you still have a lot of thoughts racing through your mind, write them down so you can let go of them.If you’re lying down, you may want to lie on your back and type them out on your phone (only do this if you’re used to typing on your phone from texting, or are open to learning it), Alternatively, write your thoughts and worries on a blank sheet of paper that you might want to attach to a clipboard for easy accessibility.In addition to writing down all the thoughts in your mind, it can also help to write down the action you’ll engage in once you get back up again, so that your mind can let go of worrying about that, too.
- Embrace your bodily sensations and experience peace. The only purpose of step 1) and 2) was to prepare you for the most enjoyable part of healing-state rest: A focused, relaxed, joyful, meditative state. You can enter that most enjoyable of all states like this:First, focus your mind on the most unpleasant or pleasant sensation in your body. If you don’t feel any sensations, focus on your breathing. Breathe calmly, giving hundred percent of your attention to the sensation you choose to focus on.Whenever your mind takes you away from your breathing or sensation, use the the stop technique from step 1) to free yourself from the stranglehold of your mind and get back in touch with the healing calmness of your body.After a few minutes of resting this way, focusing on your unpleasant sensation will get a little more pleasant. After 5-30 more minutes, you’ll experience healing-state rest, heaven, enlightenment, or whatever you’d like to call it. Enjoy :).
It’s easiest to do 3) with the help of a guided meditation. I use the Soften and Flow meditation that comes with Ashok Gupta’s recovery program, or my own Melt Away Tension and Experience Peace Audio, which you can download for free here.
What to do if you find it difficult or bothersome to rest?
When people avoid resting, it’s usually for one of two reasons.
- They believe that they don’t have the time to rest. If this is your worry, read Bruce Campbell’s Will Rest Make Me Less Productive?. In his short article, he explains and gives examples of how resting helps people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia to actually get more done.
- They find it hard to stop what they’re doing. If we don’t know how to do it the right way, it’s so hard to stop what we were just doing, for example reading this article, and getting ourselves to rest. There is a simple work-around though, called the “baby-steps approach.” Learn the approach in no time from reading my short article, Why is pacing so hard? And one simple technique to making it easy.
How to make resting fun and easy.
Do you remember the Online Self Care Hour from earlier in this course? It’s basically an online space for people to do their self-care activities, such as taking healing-state rests, within in a supportive community. It’s for people who feel like they are the only ones who have to engage in all of this self-care while everyone else is drinking beer and eating ice cream.
The Online Self-Care Hour has just been updated. Click here watch a video or read more about it and sign up.
Can You Rest too much?
Yes, it’s possible to rest more than you need to. Experiment to find out what combination of rest periods works for you. Excitingly, several short rests are often more effective than one longer break. Bruce Campbell shares a great example of how multiple shorter breaks can relieve the need for a longer rest in Will Rest Make Me Less Productive?.
Why I’m smiling right now
Have you noticed the excitement and positivity with which I presented this week’s lesson? My excitement stems from the fact that learning how to rest deeply has been one of my most beautiful discoveries in life. I’m smiling as I write this—for being this fortunate and for knowing that you, too, have the chance to discover peace and happiness through healing-state rests.
If you’ve got here without being subscribed to the free CFS Recovery Project E-Course, you’re missing out. This is lesson #12 on how to reach your maximum health and happiness potential if you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia. If you’re not already a subscriber, click here to learn more about it.