Slightly later than anticipated (due in part to having to fight off numerous illnesses!) I’m continuing to explore the topic of fatigue management. In part 2 of my 9 ways to help manage your fatigue article I’m sharing even more tried and tested strategies to help make managing fatigue easier.
As my first article on fatigue has fast become one of my most popular, I’m sure you can’t wait to find out a few more techniques to try. I’m always learning too and if anyone has their own suggestions I would love for you to share them!
Some of the ideas I’m including here are still pretty new to me but I’m already noticing some great results, particularly with the changes I’ve made to my diet and exercise so I felt they were well worth a mention! I will of course keep you updated of the more long-term impact of these changes further down the line too.
Which strategies have I shared so far?
To get the full-picture and to receive some (hopefully) awesome advice, please read the first part of my article 9 ways to help manage your fatigue (Part 1).
If you’ve already read it and would just like a quick re-cap, here is a quick overview of what was covered:
Resting and pacing yourself
Focusing your energy
Organising and prioritising your time
Staying flexible and being ready to adapt
I really hope these strategies have been helping you! Now onto the new stuff…
Recognise and deal with unhelpful thoughts
This has been such a tough one for me. I’ve always been really hard on myself and now living with a level of fatigue which means I have to work twice as hard to achieve half as much as most people fuels plenty of unhelpful thoughts if I let it! I have had to make a real effort to tell myself to shut up when the unhelpful thoughts start creeping in. You probably know the ones, they go a bit like this;
‘There is nothing really wrong with you, it’s all in your head’
‘You don’t really need to rest, you could just push through the fatigue if you wanted to’
‘It’s my fault that I’m so fatigued, I brought all this on myself’
‘Why me, what did I do to deserve this?’
‘I hate this fatigue and my life is always going to be rubbish because of it’
‘I’m missing out on so much because of fatigue and no one understands (or cares) how hard this is to deal with every single day’
I think everyone on their worst days has a little pity party for themselves but please do your best to not make this the norm! Being more kind to yourself certainly won’t cure your fatigue but it will make living with it a bit more easy to manage.
Believe in yourself and that you are doing everything that you can to help yourself. Yes, living with fatigue is hard but you should be proud of everything that you achieve in the face of it. Most people around you may not understand the inner strength you are drawing on day in and day out but what’s most important is that you take the time to acknowledge it to yourself and celebrate your successes.
Manage stress and anxiety
Dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety is a massive energy drain and will leave you feeling exhausted. Obviously, there are some stresses in life that we can’t control but there are also plenty that we can. We have the power to change how we respond to stress and adjusting our anxious mindsets can have amazing results.
Recently I realised that a lot of my anxiety wasn’t a result of being confronted with a stressful situation but more from a lack of confidence in myself to cope should the worst case scenario of the stressful situation occur. I needed to believe in myself more. Now I remind myself of everything I’ve survived in life that I never imagined I could. This helps to give me confidence that I can manage a stressful situation by remembering and drawing on my inner strength, helping to alleviate some of my anxiety.
Meditation is also a great tool for helping to calm our minds and reduce our anxiety. I currently meditate a few times a week, although my aim is to meditate a bit more frequently.
I also recommend talking through your worries as much as possible so they aren’t getting bottled up inside. Talk to friends and family who you know will do their best to support you.
Please don’t be afraid of seeking professional help. Regularly visiting a psychologist with a good understanding of MS really helped me to get through a particularly hard time following my diagnosis. I learnt many ways of controlling my anxiety and managing my fatigue through her.
Maintain a sense of achievement
The worst thing we can do with fatigue is push ourselves too hard. However, we are constantly being told that if we want to feel a sense of achievement in life we need to give it our all and we must be the very best in everything that we do.
You will never feel good about yourself if you constantly compare yourself to people who are in full health and pile on the pressure to achieve the same things as them. If you are living with limitations you have to acknowledge them and try your best to work with them rather than against them.
However, it doesn’t mean you give up trying or believe that you can’t achieve anything of value. Still set yourself goals, just make sure that they are manageable and measurable. I set myself goals every month and it really helps to focus my energies.
Break down your goals into tiny baby steps and if you are doing really well at achieving a goal then don’t raise the level of difficulty until you are certain you can maintain it over time.
Feeling like you’re achieving what you can and living a life of purpose will help you to feel energised and confident that you are managing your fatigue the best you can.
Support your body through exercise
Exercise can be a really powerful tool for helping to manage fatigue but only when it’s done properly. Exercise is so much harder for people for MS than most people realise. Even when we look ok from the outside, many of us are battling issues with balance, dizziness, brain fog, muscle weakness/fatigue, mobility issues, pain and a severe lack of energy to name a few.
Trying to force yourself to exercise in the face of your MS symptoms is hard but when we do manage it there is a temptation to try to exercise to healthy person standards and by doing so we take on far too much, struggle and become disheartened.
One thing I have learnt is to start off small and keep at the same pace until I notice a gradual improvement. For example, I’ve been practising yoga for around 5 months now and it’s only recently that I’ve started to increase the amount of time/level of difficulty I commit to (and only on the days I feel able). This has meant that exercising has been more sustainable and rewarding and therefore a good method of helping to manage my fatigue.
I really like yoga, it’s a great way of exercising without getting too worn out and it has many benefits too. I find that yoga ensures I get a good surge of blood/oxygen to my brain and when done in the morning it really helps to clear some fog and provide me with a lasting energy boost.
Feed your energy levels through diet
There’s so much conflicting advice when it comes to diet that it is so hard to know what to do for the best. The one thing that is certain though is that the better quality fuel you put into your body then the more efficiently it will run. This is especially important when you have the extra difficulty of MS as all the damage it’s caused is forcing your body to work so much harder.
I don’t believe that changing our diets will miraculously cure our MS but I do believe that at the very least it can help to reduce some of our symptoms, including our fatigue.
Around 4 months ago I started the OMS (Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis) diet (and lifestyle) in an attempt to reduce the amount of MS-related inflammation I was experiencing and I’m pleased to say I’m noticing some great results already, with improved brain fog and cognition and a slight lessening in fatigue.
Now are these improvements a result of this specific diet or just because I’m eating less fatty/processed rubbish and filling up on healthier alternatives? It’s hard to say but it’s certainly worth making a few healthy adjustments to your diet to see if you start to notice the benefit too.
I really hope that you give some of these ideas a try, please let me know how you get on if you do!
If you found this article useful, please check out my previous articles on for more advice on how to successfully survive life with a chronic illness. 5 essential ways to prioritise your own wellbeing and how to live well with a chronic illness are both great places to start.
As ever, I wish you all the best with managing your fatigue!