Current research points to common underpinnings of neuro-inflammation and immune dysfunction for many chronic conditions like pain, MS, lupus, migraine, cancer, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) or Fibromyalgia. One of the symptoms people with chronic conditions often experience are flu-like symptoms and brain fog. The brains of people who have chronic conditions work differently from those of healthy people.
- A recent study done at Stanford looked at brain waves of people with ME/CFS and compared them to healthy controls. They found those with fibro or chronic fatigue have decreased peak alpha frequencies—which are associated with goal directed behavior being interrupted, and problems with attention and alertness. Getting moving at a task is difficult, and thus why we can feel resistance to everyday tasks.
- A different study showed that neuroinflammation is higher in people with chronic fatigue or fibro and the level of inflammation correlated with the level of symptoms. One area with the most inflammation was the amygdala, which plays a role in procrastination.
- Another study found that the reward center of the brain is less activated . Reducing the expectation of reward may contribute to difficulty in starting tasks.
What relief to read new studies that say “It’s not my fault I procrastinate. I can blame my brain.”
You don’t have to have a chronic medical condition. Anyone who procrastinates or can’t get started on a task can benefit from this 3 step technique.
Focus on what you would like to accomplish:
1. Stop thoughts of being overwhelmed or feelings of dread.
Let go of any thoughts of anticipatory dread and move on to a calming thought, or instead focus on sensations in the current moment. For example:
- Look at a something neutral or pleasant – even a pillow’s colors and pattern.
- At the same time, smile. It can be a fake smile.
- Take in a deep, slow breath, then breathe out and let go of your negative thought.
- As you breathe in again, keep smiling and focus on the present moment–what you are seeing, or what you are hearing or feeling.
- Repeat this as often as you need to. You may need to every few seconds, especially at first.
2. Ask: “What is the next small, easy step?”
- Break the task into very small, tiny steps. Focus on what’s doable.
- Once you have taken a first step, repeat the question– What is the next small, easy step?
- Make it OK to do only part of what you want to accomplish.
3. Focus on the finish line:
- Think about what you will gain by completing the task. Ask yourself “What pleasure will I get when I complete this task?” OR
- Ask “What pain will I avoid by doing this task?” Sometimes that works even better.
When I’m not so overwhelmed I’ll think about focusing on which teeth I want to brush . . . the cooking and cleaning can wait.
“Combating Feelings of Overwhelm, Resistance, or Listlessness in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, Johannes Starke