Being kind to yourself when experiencing fatigue

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This article first appeared in Guilt Free Health Magazine, a free e-magazine you can sign up for here.

Do you find yourself struggling with fatigue? Feeling tired ALL the time, no matter how much rest you do (or don’t!) get? Trying to work out how on earth to manage fatigue and life?

There are different types of fatigue. There’s that tiredness you feel when you’ve stayed up too late watching Netflix and your alarm goes off way too early so it feels like you’ve barely been to bed. Or after work drinks turns into one too many and you’ve no idea what time you got to bed and suddenly its time to get up and go to work! Easy in you early 20s, but suddenly feels like the hardest thing in the world once you hit 30!

Then there’s the sleep deprivation of life with a newborn baby, the wandering round in a fog and doing crazy stuff like trying to put the kettle in the fridge when you make a cup of tea (please tell me that wasn’t just me?!?).

There’s general life fatigue. Working long hours, probably in a job that doesn’t entirely set your soul on fire, early morning gym sessions and after work classes, friends and family with demands on your time. Making sure you eat properly, follow whatever the latest diet fad is, trying to fit the image of the perfect woman. Whoever she is. Not the life you imagined you’d have, but the one so many of us find ourselves in.

Then there’s chronic fatigue.

A different level of fatigue, connected to a disability or long term health condition. It’s overwhelming. It’s all consuming. There’s no amount of sleep that could ever make that feeling go away. An early night won’t solve it. It doesn’t matter if you sleep 3 or 13 hours during the night, you’ll still wake up feeling like you haven’t been to bed.

It’s a physical exhaustion that causes pain. It’s muscle fatigue well beyond a hard core gym session. Some people describe it as how you’d feel after running a marathon with a hangover and the flu. They ache. They feel like they have no strength in them.

Fatigue causes problems with cognition. It increases forgetfulness and makes it difficult to understand numbers, forget words or make decisions. Being highly sensitive is another problem, particularly to light, smell or sound.

If you recognise any of the chronic fatigue symptoms, it’s really important to talk to your doctor. There are so many different things that can cause it, and a number of different treatment options so it’s best to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

So, what should you do? How can you be kind to yourself when dealing with fatigue? How can you get past the fatigue and on with creating a life you love? Sometimes it’s the simple things that can make all the difference.

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1.       Try yoga

Yoga is a great way to get some gentle movement into your life. It doesn’t have to be a hot yoga class or anything aerobic. There’s Yoga with Adrienne beginners videos on YouTube for free, or you could check out Donna from www.yogamybedandme.com who shares simple yoga poses and routines you can even do in bed.

2.       Eat well

When fatigue takes over, eating properly goes out the window. How often do you run on a cocktail of sugar and caffeine? Yes, it keeps you going initially, but the crashes are no fun at all. You need to eat a proper balanced diet, no skipping carbs or fats or any other food groups. And water – not coffee all day long.

3.       Create a self care ritual

Make some space for yourself. Whether its curling up with a book and a hot cup of tea, a long soak in a bubble bath, a walk by the river, or something more elaborate – remember that self care isn’t selfish. It’s essential!

4.       A bedtime routine

Children have bedtime routines. Baths and warm milk and stories in bed. Those things go as we grow up, but when you have fatigue getting a good night sleep is even more important. Switch off the tv, the tablet and the phone, listen to some chilled out music, read a book, drink camomile tea. A routine helps your brain know when its time to switch off. In a busy week, bedtime routines might be the best chance of carving out a bit of “me” time in every day.

5.       Meditation

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Meditation can be like pressing the reset button on your brain. A few moments of peace, to stop and be fully present in that moment before pressing go again. No fancy equipment or uncomfortable seated positions needed. Just somewhere quiet for a few minutes each day. Maybe twice a day! Headspace is a great app to get you started with meditation, or you could try Insight Timer, a free app filled with hundreds of different types of guided meditations. No chanting required. Unless you want to!

6.       Pacing

This is the big one. The one that changes everything once you’ve got it nailed. Think of yourself like a phone battery. Some last longer than others, and all of them need recharging regularly. The more apps you have running and the less time you spend on Wi-Fi, the quicker the battery drains. You have to learn to manage all those activities, so that you’re not trying to do everything all at once, with no charger in sight. Take your time to learn how much energy each activity takes and remember its not just physical activity that can drain you. Emotional experiences and stress or anxiety will all drain your energy too. Keep a journal, record what you do and how tired (or not!) it makes you feel. You’ll start to spot patterns, and learn your triggers. You’ll be able to gradually pick and choose how to spend your time, and what you need to do to recharge yourself when you’re on the verge of over doing things. Pacing yourself is the key to managing long term fatigue. Don’t do on a good day anything that you can’t do on a bad day, and things will gradullay level out. After that you’ll be able to gradually increase what you do, provided all the other steps are falling into place.

7.       Be kind to yourself

But most of all, speak kindly to yourself. Your feelings are valid, and there is a way out. Maybe the fatigue and overwhelm is the sign you’ve been waiting for that things in your life need to change. And you’re just the person to do it!

Do you need some help learning to manage your fatigue? Check out the fatigue mentoring I offer, here.

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