Finding and honoring the limits imposed by illness offers a way to gain some control and can lead to an easing of limits.
You got an overall idea of your limits in the Self-Appraisal section, when you placed yourself on the CFS/FM Rating Scale. As we mentioned then, the average for people in the self-help program is around 30. If that describes you, the amount of activity your body can tolerate at present would be about two hours a day. Your rating also gives you a baseline you can use to compare with later on.
Defining Your Limits in Detail
We often think of limits in general as the Energy Envelope, but in fact, the overall envelope is composed of many specific envelopes: limits for different parts of your life, from walking to phone conversations to working on the computer.
By zeroing in on each part of your life one by one, you can build a detailed understanding of your limits, which we encourage you to do by filling out the Energy Envelope worksheet
after you read the rest of this page.
(It’s OK to use estimates initially. You can replace them over time by focusing on one activity at a time and keeping a record of time spent and symptoms. For more on record keeping, see the discussion of Logging
We have limits for various activities, such as personal care (e.g. bathing and dressing), housework, shopping, driving, standing and exercise. You can determine your limit for each by focusing on one activity at a time.
For example, if you think your limit for housework is 10 minutes, try that much and then ask yourself how you are feeling. Soon you’ll get picture of how much of your primary physical activities you can do without making your CFS worse. Your limits will likely vary from activity to activity.
Activities requiring concentration, like reading or working on the computer also make demands on your energy. To find your mental limits include, experiment to find how much time you can spend reading or working the computer in a single session without making your symptoms worse.
Then experiment further to find how long a break you need between sessions and how much time in total you can spend during one day on a mental activity without making your symptoms worse.
A third area is social activity, the time you spend interacting with other people, whether it be in person, on the phone or via email. To find limits in this area, note the effects of spending different lengths of time with people.
Also, ask whether your limit varies from person to person. (You may tolerate only a short time with some people, but can spend more time with others.)
For in-person meetings, you might also ask yourself whether the setting makes a difference. Meeting in a public place or with a large group may intensify your symptoms, but meeting privately or with a small group may be OK.
Many people with CFS and FM are sensitive or allergic to foods or chemicals, or to sensory input such as noise and light, or the weather.
: While we like the idea of the Energy Envelope, you might find another way to think about limits works better for you. For other ways to imagine your limits, see the page Ways to Think About Limits