How can I manage fatigue?
Knowing what causes your fatigue and how it makes you feel will help you to manage it better. In this section, we will explore some strategies for managing, and improving, fatigue.
It may not be possible to eliminate all your fatigue. But in this section we explore how you can at least manage it so you can still do the things you enjoy.
You can manage your fatigue using:
psychological (coping) strategies
Regular daily exercise can help to improve your sense of wellbeing, which may increase your energy levels and help you to sleep better. When you exercise, your body produces chemicals called endorphins, which help to reduce pain and anxiety. It is important to choose activities that are fun and that you can do with your friends, family or partner. See the session on physical activity for some exercise ideas that you can try.
Spacing out your activities to maintain energy
This is another way of saying you need to manage your energy when you feel tired. Listen to your body! Pace yourself by balancing rest and activity. Focus your energy on those activities that are essential in your life. For instance, some people may find it useful to do the activities that will lift their spirits such as going out with a friend. Some other ways to manage and save your energy are to work shorter shifts at your job or consider taking fewer classes at school.
Other strategies include:
doing low-energy activities such as cooking, drawing or playing cards
eating a balanced diet and regular meals so your blood sugar level doesn’t spike and then drop suddenly
limiting your caffeine intake.
Psychological, or coping, strategies are not only effective for managing fatigue and pain but can also help reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety, which is good news for your mood.
Taking part in relaxing activities can help to relieve stress and muscle tension. You can learn more about relaxation in the section on psychological therapies.
Focusing your attention on happier thoughts and feelings or, if you can, doing something fun with friends, reading a favourite book or listening to music can all be great distractions. Check out the section on psychological therapies for more ideas to help you take your mind off any pain and fatigue.
Managing negative thoughts
You might sometimes have negative thoughts related to your chronic pain. But there are many things you can do to change these negative thoughts to more balanced ones. Have a look at the suggestions in the session about your mood.
If you have trouble sleeping, your doctor might prescribe a medication to help you. Sleep medications can help you get over a bad spell of poor sleep, but you should not use them long-term. This is because they can lead to tolerance, where your body needs more of the medication for it to work properly.
Some sleep medications are available over the counter, without a prescription. One common over-the-counter medication is melatonin, a hormone that helps adjust your circadian rhythm (body clock). Your body makes melatonin naturally, but you can take it as a medication to treat circadian rhythm disorder. Melatonin is not the best option if you have insomnia, however.
If you decide to take melatonin, remember that it needs to be taken several hours before bedtime. If you take it right before bed, it might actually interfere with your sleep more than help it. It may also interfere with sex hormones, which are very important in regulating your reproductive system.
Before trying any medications, always discuss their use with your healthcare team.