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Managing Fatigue

November 10, 2011

I wanted to post on this subject yesterday, but was too tired to write about it.  That is the plain, unglamorous truth, not some lame joke.  I overdid it the day before daring to go to a yoga class and then go grocery shopping the same day.  Big sigh!

So, what is fatigue?  Merriam-Webster defines it as “weariness or exhaustion from labor, exertion or stress.”  MedlinePlus provides a medical definition, “a feeling of weariness, tiredness or lack of energy.”  Everyone is familiar with that feeling of tiredness after a long day, however many people dealing with a chronic illness or condition suffer frequent or chronic fatigue.  I don’t intend to specifically address chronic fatigue syndrome in this article, but the information about managing fatigue is applicable to some of the symptoms of the syndrome.

The usual answer to feeling fatigued is to rest, but what happens if you feel fatigued every day?  More rest doesn’t equate to more energy in this case.  In fact, if a person is debilitated from an illness or a period of inactivity, resting more may worsen the debility and feeling of fatigue.  When fatigue becomes chronic, it takes some real problem solving to find good solutions.

The first step is to discuss the fatigue and possible causes with your doctor.  The root cause or causes should be addressed.  Frequent causes of fatigue include poor sleep or not enough sleep, malnutrition, anemia, thyroid problems, medications, depression, and stress.  Any chronic illness can lead to multiple causes of fatigue.  If any of these causes leading to your fatigue can be assuaged by lifestyle or medication changes, it can lessen the impact of the fatigue on your day to day living.

Here are a few suggestions for managing chronic fatigue:

  • Do what you can to get regular sleep.  Sleep hygiene is important.  Try to go to bed and get up about the same time each day.  Reduce distractions in the bedroom like TV or work at bedtime.  Maintain a bedtime routine of winding down before turning in.  Avoid caffeinated beverages later in the day.  Avoid heavy meals just before bed.
  • Treat your pain.  Pain disrupts sleep and takes a lot of energy to cope with during the day.
  • Avoid sedating medications during the day time.  It isn’t always possible to do if you are taking multiple medications to treat a chronic condition, but if you can, schedule medication with sedating side effects in the evening.  As always, check with your doctor before making medication changes.
  • Pace yourself.  Space activities in a way that allow recovery time.  Get to know your capabilities and try not to over do it.
  • Exercise.  Moderate and low intensity exercise has been found to help people with fatigue.
  • Take naps.  A brief nap during the day can help you recharge enough to enjoy the rest of the day.  Keep it short, as long naps can disrupt night time sleep.
  • Eat well.  You need high quality fuel to keep you going.  A well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables will help keep you going.

If you have found other ways to improve your energy level, I’d enjoy hearing about them.

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