I used to think flare-ups only happened after physical perceived over-exertion. But I now know and see how they can happen with mental, psychological, stress impacts and even seasonal weather changes for some people.
I talk about physical flare-ups a lot with my clients and Zebra Club members online. It is important to remember these are flare-ups. They are a short period in time and importantly they do not mean we’re going backwards in our progress. A flare-up means in that moment we have taken our tissue past its current tolerance level. It was not as prepared to do more. We need to return to our previous baseline. The more tissue tolerance we build, the greater the baseline and over time the less flare-ups.
If we remind ourselves that this is not representing anything other than a flare-up, it will keep the mental stress and fear out of the picture. Stressing about flare-ups can make them worse. But ultimately, it’s the movement every day that helps keep my tissues healthy.
I’ve learnt over the years to pay attention to my mental and emotional stressors too.
After lots of trial and errors, I’ve figured out how to manage and control flare-ups from physical exertion. I understand my body, the signals and know when to stop and scale back. When I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue two years ago, it was a shock to learn this can be triggered by mental exertion. I thought feeling like that was normal. I have been learning new skill sets to understand my triggers for mental and emotional flare ups. I wonder what your strategies are for this aspect.
I learnt I need to take time out in nature. My nervous system responds to colours and smells (natural, of course, as mast cells don’t like perfumes!). I love flowers, looking at colours, being near water. It soothes my system. And having a new addition to the family has ensured I get outside in the park every day. The difference to my fatigue has been amazing . I never take this time out for granted and fit it into my busy schedule. It’s resulted in less down days . Being a recovering perfectionist meant I used to feel guilty about taking time out – but guilt is another huge trigger and energy drainer.
I also spend time every morning to meditate – I find this invaluable for calming my nervous system. Meditation doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just sitting quietly and being present in your body is enough. It’s not about stopping distracting thoughts, but noticing them and letting them pass by. The ability to bring ourselves back to our present state instead of chasing the distracting thoughts will make us mentally stronger.
I also take time planning my activities so I don’t get overloaded. This means getting enough sleep, taking rest during the day if I need to, not feeling bad about declining invitations out or cancelling plans last minute. I’ve found not putting extra unnecessary pressure on myself has really helped. I used to feel so guilty and a social failure because I missed so many events, dinners and parties. But I’ve let that go.
Do you have a flare-up management plan? What works best for you?