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Finding Your Envelope

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, which we call the Energy Envelope, in the Self-Appraisal section, when you placed yourself on the ME/CFS & FM Rating Scale by asking "What is the highest level of functioning I can sustain without intensifying my symptoms?"

The average self-rating for people in the self-help program is 25 to 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: The Little Envelopes
While it is helpful to understand your overall limits, it's also useful to understand your limits in specific areas. We suggest you focus on the seven listed below, which are described in detail in the article The Little Envelopes on the self-help program website.
  • Physical activity
  • Mental activity
  • Social activity
  • Sensory limits
  • Stress
  • Emotions
  • Heart Rate
In each area, you seek to understand your limit in that realm and the cost in higher symptoms from going beyond your limits.

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. For an example of defining the many envelopes, see the article Finding Your Energy Envelope, Part 2 on the self-help program website.

(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.) 

Three Places to Begin
Here are three strategies we recommend as you begin your work to understand your limits. (The first two are regularly recommended to patients at Dr. Lapp's clinic.)

1) Track Your Steps

To get an idea of your safe activity level, use a pedometer to count your steps as described in the article Pedometers: A Tool for Pacing.

2) Track Your Heart Rate

Some people with ME/CFS and fibro are highly sensitive to their heart rate and experience relapses if the rate goes above a certain level called the anaerobic threshold (AT). See the article Pacing By Numbers to find how to use a heart rate monitor to zero in on your AT.

3) Define Individual Activity Limits
A good way to understand your limits in particular areas is by trying experiments and keeping records, focusing on one specific area at a time and looking for how much you can do without intensifying symptoms. For ideas, see the Logging page.

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