07 Jun Coping with Chronic Fatigue
Fatigue: Coping Day-to-Day
In our recent vlog episode, Dr. Brock discussed fatigue as a common symptom of head injury, but he also called attention to what could be other underlying issues of fatigue, such as anemia, inflammation, thyroid problems, or blood sugar issues. Fatigue can be neurological, physical, and/or mental, and because of this wide range of impact, many find it hard to cope with it in their daily lives. As affected individuals try to work through the underlying issues directly, they could be utilizing small practices to help alleviate the symptom of fatigue in their day-to-day.
Rest is for the Best
Many people feel guilty or sad for prioritizing naps, choosing lower key plans or not going out at all. There’s been a recently acknowledged phenomenon, in fact, called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), in which a person feels somber for turning down plans in order to rest or have a night in. Despite the knowledge that something is wrong and affecting a person seriously, the pressure of getting out will still kick in. It’s very important, however, for someone suffering with chronic fatigue to do what they need in order to regain their strength. If there are serious underlying problems, as Dr. Brock mentions in the vlog, it’s even more important to take things easy.
1. Get enough sleep. This is obvious, if it’s possible for you. Somewhere between 7 and 10 hours of sleep a night is ideal and healthy, but just as important is sleep cycle regulation. Keeping the same sleep pattern is just as vital as getting enough sleep, so set a concrete schedule for waking up and going to bed each day.
2. Take naps, and rest when you can. This will save energy for when you must complete important tasks. Similarly, try to reduce tasks that are nonessential, and prioritize the essential tasks according to your abilities, asking for help when you need it. To better plan your daily activities, keep a journal documenting how you feel each day.
3. You can’t do it all, and that’s okay. Try not to feel guilty or sad for missing out on plans or not being there for others. Ultimately, be okay with saying “no.” This should come easier if you are open with family and friends about your condition, as it gives them more understanding of what you’re going through, leading to more support emotionally, physically and mentally.
Exercise. Don’t Overexert.
If done regularly, exercise can be a great source of energy, especially in the long run. For someone with fatigue, however, it can be a huge obstacle and should be discussed with a doctor first. It’s important to know one’s limits and then to plan out exercise in a healthy, non-excessive way. For example, many people with fatigue take short, easy walks, or simply stand up and lightly stretch every hour. They receive the benefit of movement and get the “juices” flowing properly. Just don’t overdo it, and find what’s right for you. Whether it’s practicing easier forms of yoga (like chair yoga); floating and gliding in a pool; or maybe just mental exercise in the form of meditation, do what eases you in some way.
Everyone is different; everyone has individual needs when it comes to nutrition, even moreso for someone suffering from chronic fatigue. Speaking with a professional will give more insight into personal deficiencies and needs, but there are some basic rules to live by when it comes to energy-saving diets.
1. Water. Water. Water. Drink as much water as you can, as dehydration just adds to fatigue. Be aware, though, of how much you drink before bed, as you don’t want too much interference with sleep by having to get up to use the restroom.
2. Smaller portions. Eating small amounts at a time can be helpful, too, as it keeps your metabolism consistent and helps control blood pressure.
3. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake. These are known to interfere with sleep.
4. Limit sugar intake. Try not to eat excess sugar, such as candy or ice cream. It can give your glucose levels whiplash, causing a spike in energy and then a heavy crash soon after.
5. Eat food that benefits you. Foods that are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals are best. This includes fruit and veggies, as they are high in calcium, potassium, and other rich vitamins. Certain meats, such as lean meat, fish, and poultry, are healthy options too.
Keep Having Fun
Don’t give up what you love. If you enjoy painting, playing the guitar, or cooking, don’t cut those out completely; simply do them in smaller, more reasonable portions (as you can). This way, you’re still finding joy in your hobbies, without overworking yourself in this time of fatigue. If you do, in fact, love being around people, consider having one or two friends over for a movie night, with them fully briefed on your struggles. This will keep spirits up, as you are not alone in the fight.