Living with Chronic Fatigue

I have been living with Chronic Fatigue for far too many years and have sadly come to accept that I may never have the energy levels of a healthy person my own age. While living with Chronic Fatigue certainly puts some limitations on my activities, I may never run a triathalon, for instance, I have found that there are things that I can do to improve my energy and prevent what I call ‘crashes.’ When I’ve crashed, I have absolutely NO energy, can’t think straight and can barely get out of bed:
  1. Ditch Caffeine – caffeine is great in the short term. It makes you feel normal but then you tend to overdo things and in a day or two you can almost guarantee that you’ll crash. Avoid the ups and downs by cutting this drug out.
  2. Go to bed early or at least when your body is telling you it’s tired
  3. Give up alcohol – alcohol is poison for a person with Chronic Fatigue. Your system is already overloaded with viruses or other contaminants, that’s why you are sick. Do yourself a favour and give it up for a few months. See if you don’t feel better.
  4. Think positively – as easy as it is to get frustrated and upset when you are exhausted, thinking this way can lead to depression which will just make you more tired and unmotivated.
  5. Gentle exercise, i.e. yoga, pilates, swimming – a lot of the research suggests that gentle graded exercise can improve chronic fatigue. Even if it doesn’t at least you are looking after your body. Don’t exercise when you are crashing as you’ll only make it worse, but when you feel up to it, try some gentle movements and stretching.
  6. Keep in contact with friends & family – while it is very easy to lose contact with people while you are sick, it is even harder to meet new people when you don’t have the energy to go out after work. Thanks to technologies there are many many different ways to keep in touch with people. Don’t feel like you have to spend half and hour on the phone or write an essay length email. Keep phone calls to 5 mins if you have to or simply send a short text to let people know you are thinking of them.
  7. Extended breaks – There have been a couple of times where I’ve taken a few months off work to recover when I’ve been really sick or having trouble coping with the demands of a full time job. I use this time to rest and enjoy activities I don’t get a chance to do when I am working. If you can’t afford to take an extended break start looking at your lifestyle and try to make some changes so that you can afford to do this in the future.
  8. Find work you love – if you enjoy your work you’ll be more motivated despite the fatigue. It is a lot easier to do something you enjoy and feel is worthwhile when all you want to be doing is crawling into bed and falling to sleep.
  9. Healthy eating – loads of fresh fruit & vegies, water, wholegrains and multivitamins. Make up a batch of soup and freeze it in small containers on the weekend, then during the week you can reheat it as an energy snack. Your body doesn’t need takeaway and junk food when it is already struggling to keep pace.
  10. Health checks – keep up regular appointments with your GP and make sure they do all the relevant blood tests in the beginning to make sure your fatigue hasn’t been caused by one of the very many diseases where fatigue is a symptom, i.e. thyroid problems, anemia, diabetes, etc.
  11. Reduce stress – stress can exacerbate chronic fatigue
  12. Healthy home – depending on your levels of chronic fatigue you may spend a lot of time in the home. A clean uncluttered home is so much nicer to spend time in than a dirty, cluttered one where you see things you need to do everywhere you look. Also a dirty home can make it easy for allergen causing dust mites, mould and other undesirables to grow, further increasing your symptoms. Get some family & friends to help give your home one big spring clean or hire a cleaner for a day if you have to. Also, open windows and doors regularly to improve the air quality in the home.
  13. Don’t nap during the day – unless you are crashing and completely exhausted try to avoid napping during the day. It only makes sleeping at night more difficult and interrupts your sleep routine.
  14. Get some sunshine, especially in the morning – sunshine inhibits the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Sunshine in the morning is a natural alternative to having a cup of coffee to kick start your system.

While I am in no way symptom free this list of things to do and not do has certainly helped reduce the regularity of crashes and has made day-to-day living more manageable. At the end of the day though, when you are crashing, the only thing that is going to help is rest. So go to bed and rest, watch a DVD or read an entertaining light-hearted story.

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