Essentialism & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Three words: Less, but better.

I think this is my most favorite sentence and takeaway from the book Essentialism because if you think about it, we can truly apply that sentence to many aspects of life, business and everything in between.

Your home decluttered… less, but better.
Your wardrobe pared down… less, but better.
Your schedule with less activities… less, but better.

It’s no secret that we are living in a time of pure and utter overwhelm. LOTS of choices, lots of things, lots of noise, just a LOT going on. And if there is one thing those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome know, it’s that handling a LOT of anything is not an option for us. For us, less is BETTER.

Greg McKeown says that Essentialists relentlessly pursue “less, but better” which means asking yourself things like, “Am I invested in the right activities?” and recognizing that if everything is important, nothing is important at all. Few things are actually vital. Essentialism isn’t about getting MORE done, it’s about getting the right things done and in my heart, I believe this could be a game changer for those with ME/CFS.

Essentialism gives us permission to be selective. Instead of treating everything as important, it tells us that we have to be deliberate about where we focus our [limited] energy and time. Non-essentialists say “it’s all important” whereas essentialists say “only a few things really matter”.

Even WITHOUT Chronic Fatigue Syndrome… we can not say yes to everything, so we really have no business saying yes to too much when we’re dealing with CFS. The truth is, we have limits that are lower than the average person’s and we have to adopt the mentality of less, but better in order to take care of ourselves, to do our best work and to avoid getting sick or burned out. I TRULY THOUGHT that CFS was going to rob me of my ability to show up period, because it felt impossible… but that’s because I was trying to do the same amount of work I USED to do which makes no sense. You know why? What I used to do was too much for a healthy person without CFS and I wasn’t focusing on doing less, better… I was focused on doing more, constantly.

Instead of saying yes to a TON of things – ask yourself instead “what do I want to go big on?” – and roll with that. One of the most important lessons from Greg McKeown’s book is that not only do we want to choose to focus on doing less, but we NEED to protect the asset (us) because if we don’t, we sure won’t be showing up to do a darn thing and you guys with CFS get that more than anyone. I KNOW what it’s like to pass out mid-morning from exhaustion and overdoing it because I am not protecting the asset (me). It’s not fun and it’s defeating. We MUST listen to our bodies and do less or we won’t get anything done at all.

Essentialism with ME/CFS looks like: less on the schedule and less saying yes even if it lets someone else down. I know that’s hard for my Enneagram 2 and people pleaser friends especially, but it’s ALWAYS better for your mental and physical health as someone with chronic fatigue to let someone else down instead of yourself. You quite literally don’t have the energy to show up endlessly for everyone else. As long as you are honest about your capacity when turning it down, you’ve done everything you could and you’ve done the right thing. If anyone guilts you for this – they are someone that you absolutely needed to say no to and it’s a good thing you got out while you did!

This book was a HUGE gift to me. I am so thankful I took time to read it a couple of years ago and my mental and physical health has thanked me for it. It’s hard to say no to requests and obligations sometimes but you’re saying YES to YOU and to your CFS health journey when you don’t take on more than is necessary.

I’m linking Essentialism HERE and his follow-up book Effortless HERE!

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