ME/CFS: 6 Steps To Beating Binge & Bust

Maslow’s hierarchy proposes the theory that people are motivated to meet their needs in order to thrive, from basic needs; physiological needs, to higher needs; such as self esteem, self-actualization and self-transcendence (a term he added some years after the initial model he proposed).

We all have needs, that if not met, will have consequences.

I appreciate that getting your needs met when you have ME/CFS and don’t have the support you need, can make life difficult.

Binge & Bust 

One thing I noticed when I had ME/CFS, is that I would go through a cycle where I would:

  1. Spend a lot of time being very careful trying to look after myself, in order to boost energy and healing
  2. Get frustrated with this somewhat inflexible lifestyle
  3. Then go the other extreme and throw all caution to the wind. Perhaps I would go out, push myself too hard, even if I felt very fatigued
  4. I would pay for it, by feeling exhausted.. Then I would go back to step 1.

Is that familiar?

I have spoken to many clients who recognise that pattern.

Binge & bust is closely related to boom and bust and can be part of that dynamic. I will talk about boom and bust in another article.

So how can a person break this cycle?

6 Steps To Beating Binge & Bust

1. Recognise The Pattern 

If you recognise that you are running the above pattern, that is an important first step.

2. Identify The Feelings

Usually, there is fear that fuels this behaviour. For example “I must be careful otherwise I will pay for it.”

3. Recognise The Cost

Generating fear causes stress to the body, which actually stops you from reaching the goal of boost energy and healing.

4. Create Calm 

Use a technique that works for you, that helps you generate calm. I share simple relaxation techniques here

5. Identify The Need

What is the need that you are trying to attending to?

In the article I wrote on Saying No I suggested that a person with ME/CFS needs to consider their daily priorities. We also need to consider what are needs are.

For me it was often human contact and some fun.

For others it might be:

Physical contact or some mental stimulation.

Having a bit of something you fancy- chocolate,  alcohol, avoiding the pattern of totally abstaining and then binging.

6. Identify The 3rd Way

What would be a more balanced approach, rather than swinging between the 2 extremes? For me, planning social activities was helpful, as:

1. It gave me something to look forward to
On one occasion when I had ME/CFS, I rested all day and that went clubbing for a few hours. It was brilliant, and although I was tired for a few days, I didn’t mind, as I felt happy that I had done something ‘normal’ for a change.

Of course, there were times when even doing that wasn’t feasible. So choose something that is appropriate for you is necessary.

2. I felt less likely to get frustrated with my over-careful approach

3. I was less likely to go the other extreme

Consider what might be your way of avoiding going from one extreme to the other.

One client said that when he understood the pattern of being over-careful and then care-less, he would recognise he needed to relax, identify his need- which is often for fun, and then find a way of meeting that need.

He said it was like having a piece or two of cake, rather than eating the whole cake and then feeling gross!

Closing Thoughts

Taking care of our needs is important (obviously), including our need for connection, fun, stimulation etc.

Whilst that can be difficult if you are very poorly, it may be possible to get some of one’ s needs met with some creative thinking.

For example, if you are poorly, getting someone to give you a massage or read to you.


Do leave a comment on how useful you found this article.

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simon  SIMON PIMENTA is a hypnotherapist, coach and trainer working with people to boost resilience and performance, and minimise stress.

After working in a demanding job as the Director of a Housing Trust, he went off sick and remained unable to work for the next 8 years.

He discovered a pioneering approach to resolving health issues and got back his health, and now trains others using these same techniques.

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2 Responses to ME/CFS: 6 Steps To Beating Binge & Bust

  1. Reg says:

    This is me to a tee
    It’s knowing how to break the cycle that’s the million dollar question

    • Simon says:

      Happy to have a chat with you Reg to explore strategies, beyond what I have covered in the article. I do 3 free no-obligation sessions each week.

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