Chronic fatigue can be debilitating, and it can affect almost anyone. It’s most commonly known as a symptom of fibromyalgia, a disorder accompanied by widespread musculoskeletal pain typically following an incident of physical trauma. However, chronic fatigue can occur independently.
Chronic fatigue is a collection of symptoms that make you feel extremely tired or physically fatigued, even without a legitimate accompanying event, like strenuous exercise. Infections, stress, and surgeries can all lead to chronic fatigue, but it can also happen on its own.
Because there is no cure for chronic fatigue, sufferers often deal with symptoms for life. Fortunately, there are a variety of chronic fatigue treatments that can reduce, or even temporarily eliminate your symptoms.
Managing Chronic Fatigue
These strategies can reduce the frequency and severity of your chronic fatigue symptoms, and make it easier to live a normal life:
- Take your time. Fatigue can make it hard to get through your normal routine, slowing you down when you shower, dress, and eat breakfast. It’s tempting to push yourself hard to get through these chores, but you’re better off taking your time. Try to allow more time in your schedule for your daily tasks, so you aren’t rushed, and pace yourself throughout the day. Otherwise, if you push yourself too hard, you may end up crashing later.
- This may sound like it contradicts the previous point, but make it a point to exercise regularly, especially on your good days. As long as you’re feeling good, try going for a brisk walk, or even a jog. Stretching exercises and light weight lifting can also be helpful. Almost any exercise can help you maintain and build your strength, giving you a better physical foundation that can ultimately reduce your symptoms. The trick is to balance exercise with plenty of rest. Don’t try to do too much, too fast, and gradually increase the amount of time you exercise per week.
- Watch what you eat. Nutrition can play a role in the frequency and severity of your symptoms as well. For many people, a Mediterranean Diet (one rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, but low in refined carbohydrates) is helpful in reducing chronic fatigue. It’s also helpful to eat several small snacks and meals throughout the day, rather than feasting with big meals; this way, you’ll have a steady supply of energy to work with, reducing the impact of tiredness. Some people also have specific sensitivities to certain ingredients that can make fatigue symptoms worse. For example, you may notice that alcohol, caffeine, or artificial sweeteners trigger chronic fatigue symptoms in you. Pay attention to what you’re eating and how it’s affecting you, and adjust your diet accordingly.
- Make use of a day planner (and sticky notes). In part because fatigue is so distracting, many people who deal with chronic fatigue also suffer from memory loss, and difficulty with scheduling and task management. You can overcome this by making use of more tangible reminders. Make use of a combination of a day planner, sticky notes, and automatic notifications from your phones and digital devices. This is especially important if you’re trying to work while experiencing fatigue symptoms.
- Take medication. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all medication that works for all chronic fatigue sufferers, but there are some medications that can reduce the severity of your symptoms. Your doctor will be able to make a recommendation for what medications may work best. For example, you may benefit from taking antidepressants, NSAIDs for pain management, muscle relaxers, and in some cases, prescription opioid medications. Certain vitamins and supplements may also help, such as vitamin D and fish oil supplements.
- Seek social support. One of the hardest things about chronic fatigue is feeling like you’re dealing with the symptoms by yourself. If you’re working and living on your own, some days will feel almost impossible. You can make things easier on yourself, both physically and mentally, by seeking support from the people around you. Talk to your close friends and family members about your symptoms, and explain what they can do to help you; even a small gesture can make you feel better. You can also talk to your supervisor or boss about the nature of your symptoms, and request specific accommodations so you can do your job more efficiently.
Finding What Works for You
Chronic fatigue doesn’t look the same for every individual. Your symptoms may be more or less severe, more or less frequent, or fundamentally different than the norm. Accordingly, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and attempt to experiment with multiple types of treatments. Keep the strategies that work best for you, and don’t be afraid to try new approaches—you never know what might help.