Self-Care for Restoration

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Phase 2: Active Recovery Without Post-Exertional Malaise

Overview of Active Recovery

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Recent studies in athletic performance have discovered that athletes recover from injury and illness faster with light exercise than with total rest. In this module, we’ll adapt the concept of active recovery into exercises that are appropriate for someone recovering from chronic illness and stress. That said – the “Big Bad” in this phase is Post-Exertional Malaise (PEM). Overexerting yourself and crashing is literally debilitating. The more often you crash, the less likely you are to recover fully. So, in this section, we’ll explore how to break the push-crash cycle so you can finally begin to heal.

More than anything, Active Recovery is about supporting your body as it moves from a state of dysregulation to a normal functioning state. Your endocrine system, especially, has been behaving very unusually in its attempts to heal from COVID, another virus, or chronic stress. All the usual patterns of work and rest, stimulus and hormonal response have been broken. Those new patterns were helpful during the emergency of the disease or stress state, but as you heal, those patterns become ruts you can’t seem to get out of. It’s a little like a horse that was once legitimately frightened by a venomous snake – that violent lurch to the left kept it safe in a potentially life-threatening situation. But now, the horse is shying at every garden hose and scrap of rope it sees. Your job is to slowly, gently ease that over-response.

During Active Recovery, you will start to re-introduce physical activity in an extremely gentle way. The ultimate goal is to improve your body’s autonomic regulation, so it’s responding helpfully to everyday stressors without going into full panic mode.