Coping with tiredness & fatigue

This page talks about coping with tiredness and fatigue. For more information, see our Essential Guide on Tiredness and Fatigue.

 

Everyone feels tired sometimes. Usually after some rest or sleep you feel better. However, living with a long-term health condition can cause fatigue and make you feel tired a lot of the time.You might have little energy or motivation for doing everyday things. This can have a big impact on your daily life, work and relationships. However, there are many things you can do to help manage your tiredness and fatigue, and save your energy.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is the name given to extreme tiredness. It is different from normal tiredness. If you have fatigue, you can feel tired and low in energy most of the time, even after you rest or sleep. Where this page talks about tiredness, the information also applies to fatigue.

How tiredness might affect you

Tiredness affects everyone differently. As well as a general lack of energy you may also:

  • Find it hard to concentrate or make decisions
  • Feel irritable and get upset easily
  • Have difficulty remembering things
  • Feel less motivated to spend time with family and friends

Learning ways of saving your energy can be very helpful: this page gives you some useful tips.

Why you might feel so tired

Living with a long-term health condition can cause fatigue and make you feel tired a lot of the time. Other reasons might include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Emotional factors - feeling stressed, angry, frustrated or depressed can make you feel more tired
  • Medication - for some people, tiredness can be a side effect of their medication
  • Other medical causes - for example, if your iron is low

It can help to speak to your doctor about your tiredness to find out if there is anything that might help. For example, changing medication to something that works better for you. Speak to your doctor first before making any changes. Never stop taking medication without their advice.

SAVING ENERGY

Tips

  • Let dishes drip-dry or invest in a dishwasher.
  • Sit for as many activities as possible, e.g. ironing, preparing / cooking food.
  • Keep things close at hand to avoid extra walking or carrying
  • Put frequently used items in drawers or shelves that are between waist / shoulder level.
  • Keep items in the area where they will be used, to avoid unnecessary fetching and carrying.
  • Shop on the internet or from catalogues. This gives you the chance to choose what you want and get things delivered at a time that's convenient to you.
  • Discuss possible changes to your work, for example, reducing your hours, working from home or taking extra breaks through the day

Pacing yourself and organising your time

  • Give yourself time to do things. A slow steady pace consumes less energy.
  • Alternate work / chores and rest by doing things in small stages.
  • Don't be tempted to overdo it on a good day as you will be overtired the next day.
  • Consider keeping a diary and keep a note of the times of the day when you are most tired. This can help you identify any patterns and help you plan when you need to rest.
  • Do most energy-consuming tasks at the time of day / week when you have most energy - but be flexible and plan rest periods.
  • Planning in advance will avoid having to rush.

Keeping active

  • If you feel very tired you might not feel like doing any physical activity or exercise. However, regular physical activity can actually give you more energy and make you feel less tired.
  • If you find doing a lot of activity makes you very tired, try breaking it up into smaller amounts. For example, instead of a 15-minute walk, do 3 walks of 5 minutes each and spread them out across your day.
  • Speak to your doctor or nurse about how to keep active in a way that is safe and right for you. It can also help to talk to them about any worries you may have about how being active might affect your tiredness.

Sleep

  • Sleeping well can help you feel less tired. It can also help with your mood and memory.
  • Relax before bed by having a bath, reading a book or listening to the radio.
  • Be 'screen free' for at least an hour before bed - no phone, TV or computer.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine

Thinking about your lifestyle

  • If you are overweight, your body has to work harder. Losing weight if you need to can help you feel less tired and increase your energy levels.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help you feel less tired.
  • Avoid high-sugar snacks and eating large meals.
  • Avoid caffeine and energy drinks - these can give you a short energy boost but make you feel more tired later on.

Getting help

  • It is important to ask for help when you need it.
  • To help them understand, it can help to explain to your family or friends how your tiredness affects you.
  • Keep a list of what you might need help with and accept help when it is offered. This means you are using your energy to its best advantage.
  • Help and support can also come from exercise groups, local peer support groups and relaxation and mindfulness programmes

For more information on managing tiredness, see our Essential Guide on Tiredness and Fatigue.

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