Managing Fatigue with a Neurological Condition
The information contained here is not intended to replace medical advice, and if you feel like your difficulties are obstructing your rehabilitation or impacting upon your day-to-day life, you should speak to a medical professional.
Information on this topic
Fatigue is when tiredness that someone experiences is often overwhelming and does not improve after sleep and rest. With fatigue, the amount of activity you have done recently is often not related to how tired you feel.
The lack of energy and strength usually stays present for a longer period of time than ‘tiredness’, and is likely to impact on people being able to do the activities they need/ want to do.
Fatigue may affect:
- What we think (for example, “I shouldn’t feel like this, I’m useless”)
- How we feel (for example, frustrated, unable to cope, irritable)
- What we do (avoid activities, increased effort required)
The signs of fatigue are not always clear to others, and therefore they may struggle to understand how you are feeling.
It is likely that a mixture of physical and emotional factors are contributing to you experiencing fatigue with a neurological condition.
Although no cure for fatigue has been found, symptoms can be reduced. This can include a variety of ways to self-manage.
If you find that you experience some of the following common symptoms, or something similar, then our self-help top tips and activity below may help you manage your fatigue in day-to-day life.
Common symptoms =
- Overwhelming tiredness
- Unable to complete normal activities of daily living – may become socially isolated.
- Exhaustion, lacking in energy
- Unable to motivate themselves
- May worsen other difficulties e.g. forgetfulness, irritability, slurred speech, distractibility, dizziness.
“It’s just like this cloud that comes over…my brain will shut off, it just can’t cope with it.”
“Fatigue has stopped me doing many things which I have wanted to do. I feel miserable about this and more so for being tired. I get muddled about what it is I should be doing, how to do it and where, when I am tired.”
We have put together a few top tips for managing fatigue:
- Pace yourself. Stick to how much you can do in a day without being too tired, schedule regular rest periods.
- Separate out what needs to be done, and what others may be able to help you with.
- Eat healthily. Carbohydrates such as bread and pasta are good sources of energy and try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
- Keep up some exercise where possible as this can improve fatigue; start gentle e.g. a very short walk, and then slowly build up. Aerobic (bike, swim, walk etc.) and stretching exercises are good.
- Practice good sleep habits! Establish a regular bedtime, avoid frequent napping or stimulation at bedtime, and decrease caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Find methods to make tasks easier – an occupational therapist can help with this.
- Changes in temperature cause fatigue to worsen, cooling down can help reduce symptoms. As part of this, avoid prolonged bathing in warm water, as it may worsen muscle fatigue.
Self Help Activity
Find your own activity limit by observing different amounts of activity and then noticing the results e.g. how bad your fatigue is. Then use this weekly planner to plan your week based around this activity limit e.g. one major activity every other day in the afternoon.
- Balance high energy activities with low energy activities e.g. throughout the week.
- Leave space (and energy) for unexpected activities to come up.
- Try it and test it, if you are having to rest a lot then reduce your activity level the next week.
- Try doing different things on different days.
Bowl of Marbles Activity
Your available energy = a bowl of marbles. Each marble = small amount of energy. Estimate your energy level each morning, put an appropriate number of marbles in a bowl.
- Every activity (physical and mental/ emotional activity) = remove one or more marbles e.g. one for showering.
- Some tasks = more marbles than others, and same task may need more marbles on some days than others.
- Remember – stress, tension, worry are all big marble-users. Less of these = more supply for other activities.