Helping women with chronic illnesses

Bouncing Back: Five Tips To An Easier Recovery

Bouncing back can be difficult. This post is about recovering after activity that is unusual (i.e. in type or amount) and which triggers and/or worsens symptoms – including pain and fatigue.

Looking to bounce back as smoothly as possible?

Following up on this, I’m talking here about dealing with the fallout that can occur for a person living with chronic illness who has:

  • Over-exerted

  • Taken unusual risks (i.e. done more due to holiday-related events/activities) – resulting in an escalation of symptoms

  • Found oneself in situations resulting in feeling hurt/misunderstood by those who don’t “get it”

    Basically, I’m talking about recovering from being more active than usual and/or from being exposed to circumstances that may cause significant stress (such as interacting with people who don’t “get it”). Holiday gatherings may involve foods that trigger symptoms and it may be difficult to avoid them entirely. There are many factors that can set a patient up for exacerbation of symptoms after the holiday or special event has passed.

    Any chronic pain patient can tell you about the “crash” that inevitably occurs after the unusual activities. Typically, only those living in the same household as the patient get to witness these “crashes”. It is very common for friends and loved ones who see a patient functioning at his/her peak to be oblivious to the fact that there will almost certainly be paybacks later. (In other words, just because I joined you for an all-day gathering doesn’t mean I won’t be bedridden tomorrow as a result)!

    OK. Let’s face it. If you’re reading this chronic illness post, you may never be quite this bouncy!

    This post is about bouncing back from challenging events such as holidays. For people living with chronic illness and chronic pain, events that are taken for granted by others can be absolutely challenging and exhausting. It’s that time of year when there may be more triggers than usual.

    For a person living with migraines or multiple chemical sensitivity, fragrance worn by others can serve as a trigger for symptoms. For those living with infertility, the holidays can bring gatherings with young children or babies; this can be very difficult. For a person living with interstitial cystitis, vulvodynia, or endometriosis it can be painful to sit in the car (or plane) for extended periods of time. The list goes on.

    Many chronic conditions can result in extra exhausting times around the holidays due to physical and/or emotional stress and a multitude of potential triggers.

    Let me state the obvious here – because sometimes it just helps to hear the simple tips that we already know. (There is some overlap between the following categories).

  • REST: The importance of sufficient rest cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, some of the same factors that can lead to the need for extra rest (travel, more time than usual involved in challenging activities, stress) can make it difficult to sleep (being away from home, having extra pain from overdoing things that makes it hard to get to sleep ot stay asleep). It isn’t always easy but doing whatever you can to get enough rest is key.

    Catnap, anyone?

  • COPING MECHANISMS: These can vary widely from person to person. For some people, coping mechanisms may actually assist in the process of getting to sleep or staying asleep (to get the rest already mentioned). Coping mechanisms can range from taking more frequent breaks during activities to talking with a friend or loved one who “gets it” to one of my personal favorites… listening to music.

    Tori Amos’ music is often one of my first choices.

  • LIGHTENING THE LOAD: When attempting to bounce back after having been extra active, it can be helpful to cut back to the absolute minimum amount of activities for awhile. Rather than trying to “get back to normal” (whatever that is!) , it can be helpful to do less than usual while recovering from a period of increased activity. The body gets a chance to “catch up”.

    Try not to get loaded down with more than your body can handle.

  • DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF: Many people I know of (who live with chronic illnesses and chronic pain) go through periods where they “beat themselves up” about what they can’t do in general (or what they couldn’t do when faced with activities that are not within their capabilities at this time). Self-induced guilt trips only complicate matters. If you find yourself focusing on what you can no longer do, try to shift your thoughts to what you can do. Rather than focus on the losses, try to focus your limited energy on appreciating the things that you can do.

  • HUMOR: Never underestimate the power of humor. Whoever said “laughter is the best medicine” was right. When I am feeling drained, depleted, and exhausted, one thing that can sometimes perk me up is watching a really good comedy or listening to my husband crack jokes (which sometimes include gallows humor).

    Humor has helped get me through some very TRYING times!

    It is easy to feel exhausted, drained and frazzled any day of the year when chronic illness is in the picture. To add the extra stress and commotion that the holidays can bring on top of it can really be overwhelming. Trying to pace yourself and to have realistic expectations of what you can and can’t do (and in what time frame) can be very helpful. If you have done more than your body would have liked, it’s worth it to take the time out to replenish your energy. Trying to run on empty only takes a person so far. Eventually, the body will make its displeasure abundantly clear!

    I realize there really isn’t anything that novel/unique in this post. Much of what is listed above falls into the category of common sense. However, it has been my experience that a great many patients take comfort in knowing they are not alone in these struggles and find it reassuring to give themselves “permission” to rest and recover after overdoing. Sometimes it’s easier to give oneself such “permission” when the obvious is stated. Sometimes it just makes it easier to give oneself that time to bounce back after periods of extra activity or travel or very busy schedules. It is OK to take the time to get rejuvenated… whatever methods work for you!

    This post was written by Jeanne at Copyright © Jeanne — All rights reserved.

    New to blog commenting? Just click “comments” below post. (If you set up a Gravatar, your picture will show when you comment).

    Reading: Bouncing Back: Five Tips To An Easier Recovery

    1 AnnieNo Gravatar { 12.02.11 at 1:43 am }

    Excellent suggestions everyone can use at this busy time of year, chronic illness or not. Btw, this is the first I’m come across someone else linking endo and pain from sitting for long periods. I have that too and it drives me NUTS! Not that I sit around much lately, but someday I’d love to travel abroad again and the pain could be quite a barrier.
    Annie´s last [type] ..The End

    2 depressionandpainsucksNo Gravatar { 12.02.11 at 6:03 pm }

    Great post. I have endometriosis on top of my other problems so I find that at that time of the month that I have little choice but to get complete rest. Sometimes I find it hard because myself talk is usually along the lines of “you’re being lazy get up and do something ” but I try to ignore that little voice in my head and ask myself” what would you say to a friend in my shoes?”, which would be along the lines of “you’re in pain don’t worry about how the house looks, get some rest and be kind to yourself”. I took some advise last night that someone wise told me about, I was struggling with cooking dinner so I put some music on (loud) and sang along, it helped get me through. Thank you for all your hard work with your blog , it helps me a lot.
    Take care
    depressionandpainsucks´s last [type] ..Bad weekend Anger came to visit!

    3 JeanneNo Gravatar { 12.21.11 at 7:50 pm }


    Thank you. There are many patients who both live with chronic pain and find travel challenging. The following blog is written by Liz, a patient living with endometriosis and other chronic illnesses: Travels With Pain. You might find it helpful down the line when you look into making travel plans! By the way, my apologies for taking so long to reply to your comment. This is the slowest I’ve ever been at replying to blog comments. It has been a very busy month. I miss your blog (it seems strange that there won’t be any more new posts) and hope that you are doing well!


    Thank you. I didn’t realize that you have endometriosis as well. I definitely know what you mean about rest not being optional at certain times of the cycle. I think your idea of remembering what you would tell a friend is a good one. Negative self-talk will likely only make you feel worse than you already do. Being kind to yourself and getting rest is so important when living with chronic illness. Music is so, so helpful for me! It really is such a healing force in my life. I can’t even begin to express how much of an impact music has me. I’m glad you’ve found music helpful too! Thank you for your feedback and for sharing about your journey on your own blog. You are helping people by sharing in that way. There are so many people living with similar struggles and it really does help to connect with others. Thank you for your kind words. Take care!



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