Strategies for Managing Fatigue
By Jodie Dunne
Many women living with endometriosis experience fatigue. For some women with endometriosis, fatigue can be one of the more debilitating symptoms even to the point of effecting work and relationships. Disease activity, pain levels, medications, age, poor mental and/or physical health, and the absence of sufficient social support are related to fatigue. You should always discuss your fatigue with your doctor to rule out any treatable causes of fatigue such as anaemia, hormonal issues or another pathology.
Listen to your body and understand your limits
It may seem counterintuitive but exercise is an effective non-drug treatment for fatigue. You don’t have to go all cross fit or high intensity exercise but it is important to do some kind of movement and/or strength-building activity every day. Look for exercise or movement classes to suit your fitness level and that you enjoy. Enjoying what you do is important, if you enjoy you are more likely to keep doing it.
During the day alternate activities with short periods of rest where you can. Even stopping for a cup of peppermint tea is a rest. Resting during the day does not mean having a nap that will interfere with your sleep at night.
Identify the things and people that negatively drain you. Negatively draining refers to those things that drain an unreasonable amount of energy from you with little or no positive return. It is the nature of life that you can’t always avoid such drainers but at least if you have taken the time to identify them you can minimise your exposure to them.
Plan your day so you can manage your energy levels and get the tasks of the day completed. Keep it simple, know your values and boundaries, then build your day from there.
Plan ahead and prioritise your activities
Planning ahead can be tricky if you have brain fog along with your fatigue. Diary, phone and to do lists are important to manage this. They also help you see what you have on, where your energy is going and allow you to plan and prioritise.
When you have to drive, group your to do list and plan your route so it is effective and saves your energy for the fun stuff. On your worst days this same idea can be applied on a smaller scale to getting around the house and ticking of jobs at home.
If you are going through a period of bad fatigue try shopping online and have items delivered directly to you. This saves navigating busy car parks or grocery isles, saves wasting energy on pushing a trolley and leaves you more energy for your priority tasks and people.
Prepare meals in advance and if you can, arrange for help with other chores. A tip is cook meals that can be frozen for easy use on evenings when you are fatigued and keep a little store of them in the freezer. Make them healthy meals you can add fresh ingredients to, like veggies or salad. That way you are not reaching for nutrient poor fast food. It takes some planning but it does help and has long term benefits for you. Click here to for more on endo-friendly meals.
Be choosy about which activities and events you attend and those you do not. Being social is important for your mental and emotional health but it is wise to choose carefully and not be afraid to say ‘no thank you’. Remember, your health comes first. Know your values, priorities and your boundaries and choose what activities and invitations you accept from there.
Be open about your fatigue and how it affects you
At doctor appointments, explain how fatigue affects you, use notes to help you remember the points you want to make. Ask if your doctor can recommend any resources on the topic, and any other support they are able to offer you in managing your fatigue.
Bring someone close to you to your next appointment. It can be hard to remember everything your doctor says, your support person can help you by remembering bits you miss or by taking notes. Share your notes with questions and the topics you want to cover in the appointment so they can help you cover everything.
Accept fatigue as a part of having a chronic illness such as endometriosis
Acceptance is not giving up, it is coming to terms with the challenges that life presents and making the most of them rather than fighting.
Refuse to indulge in negative self talk and blame, it has negative effects on energy levels as well as your emotional and mental health. Remember it is not your fault that you have endometriosis.
Make rest time a priority, and make sure your family knows why. If you rest now, you can manage your symptoms better and participate more when it is important to you.
Do not be afraid to ask for help or to ask for what you need. In fact challenge yourself to ask for what you need. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Asking for help will become easier with time and practice.
Accept help that’s offered, accepting help is not a sign of weakness, it will result in stronger bonds between you and those who care about you. It will also save you energy for the things and people you love.
A Few Other Suggestions:
Attend an EndoMeet and talk to others about how they manage fatigue effectively.
If fatigue negatively effects your sex life you can apply some of the above ideas to your sex life. Communicate with your partner about your fatigue, plan when you are going to have sex so that you can manage your energy for that day, talk to your partner about your needs, what you can do and what your boundaries are. Discuss with them how both of your needs can be covered. Remember intimacy is important and that it doesn’t have to include sexual intercourse, so even if you are too tired for sexual intercourse you can still be intimate with your partner.
Establish healthy habits such as good sleep patterns and a healthy diet.
Establish healthy movement habits. Exercise, move and get effective rest. It can take time to see benefits but stick it out, it will help.
If you smoke, quit. If you need help speak to your doctor. Smoking reduces your available energy by restricting blood flow to your heart and has other negative health consequences.
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