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Experiences with Pre-Emptive Rest
Presented by Bruce Campbell

Scheduled or pre-emptive rests have been one of the most popular strategies among people in the self-help program. Here is what some people have written about their experience with planned rest:


I have been resting in between activities, sometimes only for five minutes. For the first time in the four and a half years that I have been ill, I feel that it is possible to manage my symptoms and have some predictability in my life.

[Right after starting the class,] I decided to incorporate two scheduled rests into my day and the results have been incredible. My symptoms and pain have decreased and I feel more 'in control'. My sleep has been more refreshing and even my mood has improved.

Since I've been forcing myself to rest every day, I have found I have more stamina. And I've noticed the graph of my days doesn't dip and rise so steeply.

Finding An Optimal Rest Schedule

It often takes some experimentation to find the number and length of rests that works best for you. As the last quotation above suggests, some people find it helpful to take several daily pre-emptive rests, rather than one or two. 

This can lead to a reduction in total rest time, especially for people with severe CFS or FM. They can easily go outside their limits and trigger post-exertional malaise. Taking frequent short rests is one way to avoid malaise.

The experience of one person in the self-help program illustrates this. When this woman started the class, she was resting six hours during the day, taking two naps of three hours each. After learning about pre-emptive rest, she decided to break up her day into one- and two-hour blocks, and to take a 10 to 15 minute rest during each block. 

Over a period of two months, she reduced her total rest time by an hour and a half. After six months, she had cut her rest time down to three hours a day. By resting in small blocks, she added three hours of activity time to her day without increasing her symptoms. 

Pre-emptive rest can be especially useful for people with severe CFS or FM. A bedbound CFS patient wrote that before she took the self-help course she thought she was nearly always resting because she spent most of her time lying down. Through the class, she realized that she was actually quite active, talking to people on the phone, working on the computer, etc. 

She was initially apprehensive about trying scheduled rest, because she feared it would reduce her activity level. But she told herself that quiet, pre-emptive rests, "by allowing my body to recuperate and even heal, would give me more opportunity for activity in the spaces between them." 

Her verdict after several months of integrating frequent rest periods into her day: "I am absolutely amazed by just how much impact resting has on my overall well-being. The effects have been instant and quite phenomenal. It's turning out to be the best treatment I've ever tried. And it's free!!!"

Using Pre-Emptive Rest for Travel and Exercise

You can apply the idea of planned rests in many parts of your life. For example, I used it for several years to expand my envelope for travel. 

I found that if I stopped during driving trips for a ten to 15 minute rest every two hours, I arrived fresher at my destination and had a lower symptom level throughout my trip. I reduced my symptoms further while traveling by doubling my usual daily rest times.

Rest is commonly recommended for exercise routines: exercise-rest-exercise-rest. While I was recovering from CFS, I used rests to expand the length of my walks. I found that if I walked for a while and then sat down for an equal amount of time, I could walk substantially farther without increasing my symptoms. 

Breaking up my walks with rests also enabled me to begin hiking up hills again, instead of being limited to level ground. For some people, the rest periods may be longer than the time spent exercising, but the principle is the same: controlling symptoms by alternating periods of exercise with times of rest.