CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome) is a pervasive disorder containing a cluster of profound, incapacitating symptoms. While the cause remains unclear, there are factors which, when present, seem to alter the condition. One such factor is stress. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Though CFIDS is not caused by stress, it is stress-sensitive. Stress may occur as various forms of exercise (i.e., force exerted upon objects), errands; as cognitions such as worries (recycled internal dialogue); and expressions of emotions such as anger or fear. The presence of stress seems to accentuate symptoms such as, prolonged fatigue, sleep disorders, headaches, muscle and joint pain, cognitive anomalies, depression and anxiety. The effects of physical stressors may be controlled by adjusting exercise and exertion limits to meet the needs of the body on a particular day. In contrast, cognitive stressors are usually more difficult to regulate and consequently have potentially more pernicious effects on the already weakened body of a CFIDS individual. Mental stress burns energy that is drained from other vital areas of functioning needed to combat the fatigue. It therefore becomes imperative for the CFIDS sufferer to minimize stress factors, irrespective of any other type of treatment.
Often, people find themselves Overwhelmed by the events in their lives apart from having acquired CFIDS. Add the latter ingredient to the mix, and the creation is nothing less than chaotic! It is generally advised that those who feel like they are drowning in stress seek professional help. A number of treatment alternatives for stress reduction are available, including: Cognitive therapies, deep muscle relaxation and hypnosis; and biofeedback, to name a few. Whether or not you choose to seek help for stress to alleviate CFIDS symptoms, there may be some things you can do to relieve stress by altering the manner in which it is experienced. When we attempt to change something, it is useful to consider both how we feel-- that is, our internal states-- and our behavior. The kinds of internal representations we create, that is, our pictures, sounds and feelings, can either empower us to produce desirable behavior, or evoke stressful limitations, thereby setting the stage for failure. In combating CFIDS, as any chronic illness, a positive, hopeful state is most useful in counteracting stress and the exacerbation of symptoms that results. Thus, by altering your internal representations you can significantly reduce stressful responding and, therefore, the severity of CFIDS. This can be accomplished in two important ways: You can change what you represent-- for example, imagining a worst-case scenario can be exchanged for picturing a more optimistic outcome. And you can change how specifically you represent something by responding to various structural elements of your experience called, "sub-modalities."
We all respond through various sub-modalities. They propel us to behave in specific ways. For example, some people are motivated to take some positive action, or simply feel more relaxed after having imagined very large, bright internal pictures of experiences; others are more focused on colors. Some are struck by a warm sensation; or behave in some fashion as a function of voice tone or inflection they use when they talk to themselves. Essentially, paying attention to your sub-modalities-- how you represent things and what happens as a result-- makes it possible to think and act in ways that empower rather than limit you. In effect, stressful energy becomes represented differently as a more useful experience.
Sub-modality shifting to alter stress differs from simply trying to change the content by reasoning" through it; a choice which may not be available to you. How many times have you had the experience of trying, in vain, to counter a stressful little voice inside while it was citing all the negatives of a situation? But were you aware of the tone of that voice? Did you hear music "playing” in the background?  Perhaps create a mental image? Could you see another "you" in that image, or were you "inside", experiencing it as if you were really there? Was it large? Bright? Moving? Can you recall any feelings associated with the stressful situation?
Now pause and recall a recent pleasant experience. Step into it and pay attention to as many sub-modalities as possible-- image size, brightness, colors, movement, sound quality, and feelings. Compare this with the characteristics of a typical stressful experience. Finally, try changing only the sub-modality characteristics of the stressful experience until they are like the pleasant one. Do this several times varying as many qualities as possible. Redirect your stress and feel better!