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.

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!