You aren’t alone.
And while this isn’t a bulleted, 10-point-quick-fix article full of ginseng and grandiose promises, it is one neatly packed with valuable concepts to add some pep to your step. These thoughtful approaches have helped me live well, with fatigue and chronic illness for over 10 years, while earning a degree and building two thriving businesses.
Living with illness that features symptomatic fatigue often leaves me too exhausted to sit up or turn over in bed. That same exhaustion may also have me regard basic tasks with a humdrum eye, “I don’t feel up to doing that right now…maybe I’ll try later when I’m feeling better.”
The major issue with this, of course, is that in my case, I’m unlikely to ever feel completely “better.” I’ve learned to work around this.
Fatigue can be a huge, constricting issue, one that is deeply misunderstood, often stigmatized. True fatigue goes beyond “tired,” beyond something that can be “pushed through” and remedied quickly by extra sleep. Indeed, “pushing through” true fatigue may evoke serious consequences that have longstanding, unpleasant physical effects.
Conversely, when fatigue is a regular symptom – when you wake up tired, go to sleep tired and feel tired every moment in between – it isn’t always a message to slow down.
How does one gauge where their symptoms – and resulting prime levels of activity – fall?
Tune in to the shades within the symptom.
Really pay attention to the minutiae of characteristics of fatigue you are feeling.
Though it may seem like you are “tired all the time,” or that “it never gets any easier,” it’s likely not the case. When thinking in terms of feeling “ill” and “well” it’s easy to miss the subtle changes in our energy.
Put aside thoughts of “feeling better.” Try to get a little closer to the fatigue and its intricacies. Is it as solid and unchangeable as you first thought, or are there shades and shifts within it? How can you make these differences work for you?
I generally have more energy within the first 30 minutes after waking, so I tend to write/work then. That energy gradually wanes, and I adjust my activities and expectations accordingly, moving into meditations and hatha yoga. Knowing that I will probably feel stronger and more energetic at a specific time, I consciously save the rituals of getting washed and dressed until then.
I recognize that my lifestyle has a large effect on my energy levels. If I skip yoga, I ache and hurt more. Just one missed day may knock my productivity and wellness off for an entire week. In being mindful of these smaller details and how my body reacts, I’m far more efficient in prioritising the things I really need.
I’ve also learned to re-adjust my expectations of my body.
Contrary to what messages we are constantly bombarded with, being constantly, unendingly busy is not a sign of efficiency or success.
A while back, I found myself disappointedly looking at my to do list for the day. I hadn’t even come close to finishing it. There were so many wonderful things I wanted to accomplish and I’d fallen flat in my quest to complete them. But when I took a moment to actually do the math, it turned out, that even if I’d had all the energy in the world, it wasn’t physically possible to fit 36 hours of work (or play!) into 24 hours. It was a true turning point for me. I’m only human, after all. And you are too. You are a living, breathing being whose body has cycles of energy, just like every other living, breathing creature on the planet. Work with those cycles. Embrace them.
Places To Explore Your Energy:
- Diet: is there anything in your diet that zaps your energy? Become a nutrition detective for a week. Take note of how you feel before and after you eat things. Ask yourself, will this fuel or drain me?
- Stress: Stress is exhausting. Holding onto our tension all the time, often without realising it, can be completely exhausting. My Tai Chi teacher, Sue Weston suggests mindfully inquiring about rest in every moment. Each time you have a moment of awareness – when you notice yourself and your body – ask yourself, is there any way I can release and rest here? Exhale. Let yourself rest in a chair. Unclench your hands. Sink into the moment. You can also check out my Negotiating and Navigating Stress audios.
- Sleep: If we aren’t sleeping well, our bodies cannot repair themselves, fully. Pure rest may seem like the most obvious (perhaps even boring!) wellness tool, but it is, by far, the most under-utilised. For help, you may enjoy my Reclaiming Your Sleep Toolkit.
- Awareness: Plain and simple noticing. Listening. To our bodies and souls. Reframe all of your notions and hangups about pacing and rest. Re-claim your sweet body by truly giving it an empathetic ear. Be aware of how your actions (and inactions) affect how you feel and how you have the power to give yourself the space and healing you need.
Looking for more ideas on living well with fatigue? Check out my Wellness Provocateur Vlog, How To Manage Low Energy.