I can’t count the amount of times tea, coffee, chocolate, wine, Pro-Plus or other stimulants are advocated as a way of getting through the writing process. Great if it works. But what if you can’t rely on these?
Due to my ME/CFS, it’s incredibly important that I don’t consume stimulants. This kind of “fake” energy can have disastrous long-term implications (think of it like drinking alcohol; you can stay up for hours on end because it makes you believe you have more energy than you do, but eventually you will run out of steam and you will get a hangover. That’s me. But with tea).
That said, I do use pick me ups. Just really boring, sensible ones.
- Water – Staying hydrated is ridiculously important when you have ME/ CFS (well, it is for everyone, but even more so for us!). I always have a big bottle of water to hand because if it’s there, I’ll drink it. Yes, I do spend all day peeing, but atleast inbetween the toilet breaks, I can concentrate enough to produce some good writing!
- Co-Enzyme Q-10 – there’s no current guidelines on the amount of this that can be consumed in a day. You can have 3 tablets at a time, and I’ve read about people doing this up to three times a day though I personally feel that’s pretty excessive. I only use it rarely, as and when and it’s pretty good at making me more alert!
- Omega 3 –This was a real turning point for me in my recovery process and helps keep the dreaded “brain fog” at bay. At the moment, I take 5 IQ tablets a day. People with ME/CFS generally respond well to taking it in vast quantities (though try to get the stuff that has less DHA as this can build up in the body and cause other problems). VegEPA is DHA free but it’s hella expensive.
- Fresh fruit / veg – these guys have loads of nutrients and are very low on the Glycamic Index, which means they give me energy without a nasty sugar crash. Snacking regularly instead of having big meals is considered very helpful for people with ME/CFS as it keeps energy levels stable and means the body doesn’t have to waste energy digesting. I recommend anything you can eat whilst still typing (so definitely no oranges or kiwi fruit) and I usually eat something every hour.
- Pacing – can’t beat the power of a pace. For those who aren’t familiar with pacing, it usually requires closing your eyes, lying down (or atleast getting cosy), and trying to shut down your brain for at least twenty minutes. I don’t pace nearly as much as I should (doctors recommend 4 lots of 20 minute sessions a day regardless of how good you’re feeling that day), but it’s always incredibly refreshing. I have to listen to music when I pace because if I leave my brain unoccupied for any period of time, it tends to lead me to a bad, dark, despairing place.
So those are my top tips for staying alert. They’re not full-proof but I definitely produce more and better quality work when I use them.
Good luck, let me know what your pick-me-ups are in the comments!