How to cope with fatigue
Updated: 6 days ago
Fatigue affects around 80% of adults at some point in their life – and in a recent survey 43% of American adults said they felt too tired each day to fully function. I’m fairly sure from speaking with friends, colleagues and patients that us Brits aren’t far behind! Stressful, busy lifestyles and the glorification of ‘burnout’ culture have negatively impacted on many people’s energy levels, as increasingly we’re expected to always be ‘switched on’ and time for rest and relaxation becomes scarce. Patients living with cancer and chronic illness often experience fatigue as a symptom of both the illness itself, and any treatment they can be undergoing.
Living with fatigue is exhausting in itself. Lethargy and listlessness can leave a person feeling despondent, and stop them from doing the things they love - impacting on their mental and physical wellbeing.
What is fatigue?
Fatigue refers to a condition of feeling excessively tired or exhausted all or most of the time – a feeling that is not relieved by rest or sleep. It’s incredibly common amongst people living with cancer and chronic progressive illnesses, but it can also affect people with anxiety and depression. Up until now fatigue has been misunderstood and often underestimated by healthcare professionals – but due to its profound effect on day-to-day life more research is being conducted into ways in which patients can cope with fatigue.
How can I alleviate the symptoms of fatigue?
I work with many patients suffering from fatigue – and in the past I’ve been involved with groups which help patients living with life-limiting illness to manage symptoms such as fatigue. These are my key tips that from experience can help people with fatigue to cope better with daily life, and even see some improvement in their symptoms.
Don’t fight it
Most people feel the urge to try and combat fatigue, because they feel ‘lazy’ or ‘useless’ or simply frustrated with such an intense lack of energy. But constantly pushing through the fatigue in an effort to make it go away will likely lead to further physical exhaustion – on top of being mentally draining as you feel anxious and frustrated when it doesn’t work. A better approach is to listen to your body, work with the fatigue and moment by moment, day by day do what is best for you. Do what you can. Don’t beat yourself up on ‘bad days’ when you need to rest more. Develop and implement strategies (like the ones in this guide) to help you cope better.
Finding the energy and motivation to exercise when you suffer with fatigue can be challenging. Despite this it’s really important to try and maintain some level of physical activity, as studies have shown that exercise can alleviate the symptoms of fatigue. Plan gentle activity such as a short walk or yoga each day where possible.
Ask for help
Don’t do it all on your own. Most of us have commitments and responsibilities – such as working, caring for children and relatives, keeping the house clean and tidy and cooking for ourselves and others. Don’t feel guilty about asking for help when you need it. Spread household tasks over the week, sit down in between a strenuous activity and take regular breaks. Speak to colleagues and family members to share with them and let them know the ways in which they can help you the most.
Try holistic therapies
Some holistic therapies can be beneficial and relieve symptoms of fatigue. Many have a deeply relaxing effect, which can also improve sleep quality and boost energy levels. Reflexology, energy healing (Reiki), aromatherapy and massage can all help improve your emotional and physical wellbeing.
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