Boom & Bust
Why Boom and Bust is a problem
We all tend to Boom and Bust to some extent. We have days when we really ‘push the boat out’ to achieve something important to us, and then feel tired for a while afterwards. If our health is robust, we can cope with these peaks of exertion. However a lifestyle where we constantly push ourselves beyond our capacity, and make little time to recover will eventually take a toll on our health, as our immune system in particular becomes depleted.
If you are already challenged by a health condition, the contrast between your activity levels on ‘good days’ compared with ‘bad days’ can become more marked and extreme. This then creates a problem.
Many health conditions have a fluctuating pattern of symptoms which to a large extent are outside of your control. For example, you may experience a ‘relapsing and remitting’ pattern or have painful ‘flare-ups’ of your condition. These patterns need to be respected, as you move towards a place of acceptance and honesty about the boundaries of your physical ability. However as well as the variability of your illness, some ‘symptom’s may be related to your pattern of behaviour and activity. Obvious examples would be chronic pain conditions which may flare-up if you push too hard. The symptoms of Chronic Fatigue behave in a similar way.
On a day when your feel a bit more energetic you might try to make up for lost time by packing in as much as you can. You might enjoy the sense of achievement so much that you become unaware of, or ignore the signs of fatigue or increased pain. It is almost as if your mind takes over, racing ahead, as your body is left behind.
At this point you are expecting too much of your body which may not be able to deliver what you are asking of it. Your muscular and circulatory systems may be challenged. You may not have the ability your mind expects, due to your health condition. This is the ‘Boom’ phase of the cycle.
Inevitably, you crash and need to rest to recover. This is the ‘Bust’ phase. Sadly, as you enter an extended spell of inactivity, you are further reinforcing the process of deconditioning, losing strength and stamina. Over time this can become a difficult downward spiral, as you find that you need to rest more to achieve less.
I have drawn this as a graph, which represents a pattern I have seen, and heard described, many times.
The goal is to manage your energy so that you reach a place of steadiness and balance, the red line on the graph. This also means that you begin to notice what pushes you to over-stretch yourself some days, as well as what holds you back on other days. These frustrations and fears, are ‘thought-habits’ that can begin to shift as you become aware of them. see the section on mindfulness
When this pattern has become extreme, people tell me that they reach a stage where they cannot plan anything. They never know how they will be on any particular day in the future. They have lost any place of balance. The big fluctuations in activity mean that they have not only lost confidence in their physical health, but they also become isolated, as their symptoms become predominant. Often they will rest for extended periods in the hope that they will begin to feel more energised. Unfortunately, in the absence of any active acute illness, this is physiologically impossible. The extended rest will only cause a further reduction of their physical capacity.
The different sections offer some simple advice on how to begin to find balance in how you spend you energy, throughout your daily routine.
Often people express frustration about the tediousness of this approach. They say things like ‘I just want to be spontaneous’, or ‘I can’t believe I have to be so organised about such basic issues’. I can fully understand these perspectives.
Yet, the emphasis is always on AWARENESS, HONESTY and ACCEPTANCE. How are you actually? What is the point of pretending to yourself that you are better then you actually are? Sometimes you will make a choice to be spontaneous, or ‘push the boat out’. That’s fine. You know you will feel worse, and you can try to minimise the impact by not over-resting and by getting up and moving again as soon as possible.
Eliminating the peaks and troughs of Boom and Bust is simply a means to an end, as you find daily stability and a steady springboard from which to build your strength and stamina.
Become aware of your coping pattern
The first step in dealing with any problematic issue is to notice and become aware of it !
Sometimes we are ‘set in our ways’ and don’t even realise that our habitual ways of doing things are no longer appropriate or helpful. We tend to spend a lot of our time in automatic pilot!
Use the activity diary here to help you notice your particular pattern. Try to record how you spend your time and energy throughout the week. Jot down a subjective measure of your symptoms as you go. This may be pain or fatigue- with zero being ‘no pain/ not fatigued’ and ten being ‘worst possible pain/ highest level of fatigue’. You might also jot down how stressed or tense you feel in the same way, with zero meaning ‘relaxed’ and ten meaning ‘totally stressed out!’
Next: Activity Diary