9 of the Most Surprising Things That Helped People With Chronic Fatigue
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Chronic fatigue is one of the most common symptoms people with chronic illnesses experience — and yet, it’s hard to pin down exactly how to treat or cope with this frustrating side effect (note that this is distinct from myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, a separate condition). Of course, making sure you are getting the best possible care for whatever separate condition is causing the fatigue should be your number one priority. But ultimately, many chronic warriors still have to live with a certain degree of fatigue every day anyway (and no, this isn’t the same as just “being tired”).
We all know that getting as much rest as possible and pacing your energy output throughout the day are generally good strategies for coping with fatigue. But we wanted to know what ideas people have tried that they didn’t expect to help them lessen or at least deal with their fatigue — but actually ended up being really helpful. Below, discover what our Mighty community recommended. Some of these ideas may not seem like they would have an effect on your chronic fatigue — but they’re the strategies our community was surprised to learn were pretty helpful. Share any “surprising” coping strategies for chronic fatigue of your own in the comments below!
1. Heated Mattress Pad
Unrefreshing, troubled sleep can — no surprise — make chronic fatigue even worse. But there may be adjustments you can make to your sleeping environment that help you feel more rested in the morning. One is a heated mattress pad. Some people find that the heat is relaxing and pain-relieving.
“For the past 30+ years I have had difficulty sleeping more than four hours at a time. I wake up — wide awake — but after a couple of hours I am so tired I have to go back to sleep for another few hours. This sleep-wake-sleep cycle goes on day after day,” Kathleen Brockaway said. “Last year my sister gave me an electric heated mattress pad that warms the body from underneath. This type of warming relaxes my muscles and lets me fall into a deeper more refreshing sleep. Sometimes I now sleep six or seven hours without waking. I still run out of energy faster than I did in my 20s and 30s, but can stay awake longer and get more done.”
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2. Staying Hydrated
Like a lack of quality sleep, being dehydrated also makes fatigue more pronounced. Studies have shown even mild dehydration is enough to impair thinking, and more severe dehydration impairs muscle and heart function. Plain water, or even sparkling or flavored water if you want to liven it up, will do the trick.
“Stay hydrated! If you dehydrate, your body has a sleep response… and since you are already fighting one type of fatigue, don’t compound it! Sleep at night with a clean routine and stay hydrated!” Jenn L. Bullock recommended.
“Water. Drinking water more so than usual somehow keeps me going. No rhyme or reason, can’t explain why. But I just increase my water intake and muscle through as best I can,” Kristin Marie Kaskeski said.
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3. Peppermint Oil
Many people swear by a sniff of peppermint oil as a quick mind- and energy-boost. While science around the effectiveness of essential oils as a health treatment is mixed, some studies have found that peppermint oil helps improve exercise performance and enhance memory and alertness.
“Peppermint oil. Working out helps, but at work, or a fair, or a party, I need a quick fix! Sniffing some pure peppermint oil or mixing some with some lotion and applying to my arms is helpful! (Don’t do the lotion trick in direct sunlight, however, as essential oils and sun don’t tend to mix.) Perks me right up! And the worst side effect? I smell like a candy cane. Which is fine!” Bullock said.
4. A Strong Support System
While having good friends in your life won’t necessarily affect your physical symptoms, you may find that the “lows” are easier to deal with when you have loved ones you can go to for emotional support. And who knows, they may even be able to offer physical assistance, like helping you run errands and encouraging you to rest.
“Good friends/cute husband that form a strong understanding support circle. The people who can hug you and make the pain more bearable are the greatest blessing and huge part of my life,” Katrina Cox Orr said.
“My husband. He can tell when I’m crashing before I can, and if I’m in a situation where I’m pushing myself too hard (as is often the case), he’ll say, ‘You need to go lie down. Now,’” Alyson Ahern Knop said.
5. Healthy Snacking
Nutritionists recommend eating small, frequent snacks to keep your blood sugar and metabolism at healthy levels. Just make sure you have nutritious options on hand, as sugary snacks can lead to a crash later.
“Sometimes a snack helps wake me up. I have a hard time eating because of pain so my blood sugar can get low and make my fatigue worse. A healthy snack can be an energy boost,” Sara Beth recommended.
“Eating regularly (like every three to four hours), food with a high fiber content preferably to help keep my blood sugar as stable as possible. Most of the time that is whole-grain toast with various non-sugar toppings (cheese, ham, salami). No need to get complicated!” Michelle Moland explained. “I have had a significant improvement since I started eating like this in the spring. I still have bad days, it’s not a cure-all, but my bad days are less bad and my good days are better.”
6. Going Easier on Yourself
When fatigue prevents you from accomplishing tasks on your to-do list, it’s all too easy to beat yourself up for “failing.” But you don’t have to! Give yourself permission to rest, save your “tasks” for another day and put your body first. Taking care of yourself is not “wasting time.”
“Grace surprised me! When I’m gentle with myself, I am amazed how I feel less fatigued. It’s like by not beating myself up over it, I have more energy,” Kris Ulliman said.
“Letting go of a schedule as much as possible. If I do what I can, when I can, it helps me feel less guilty than missed deadlines and changes in plans. Especially for things like laundry, groceries and cleaning,” Krista Itzhak said.
7. Virtual Assistants
If your fatigue makes you forgetful, virtual “home assistants” like Amazon Alexa and Google Home can help remind you of appointments, save shopping lists and get information like the news and weather. They can also help you save energy by allowing you to turn on lights, adjust thermostats (with compatible connected devices), make calls and play music by issuing a voice command instead of having to get up.
“Alexa. Helps with brain fog and not having to get out of bed,” Roxanne Melfina Aguinaldo said.
8. Having a Pet
You might think that having a pet would only zap your energy, not help you feel more energetic. While it’s true that some pets require more work than others and you should think carefully about your ability to care for your health and a pet at the same time before adopting one, many in our Mighty community said their pet provided emotional support and motivation to keep moving when they’re feeling fatigued. Science agrees that having a pet is good for your health.
“I have a Cairn terrier puppy that makes me smile every day from his antics. Hard not to laugh when your puppy is upside-down in his toy box, growling, snarling, and flinging toys out in all directions. And fatigue or not, we still have to go for a walk every day. Some walks are just slower than others…” Christopher Haskins said.
“My little furball, Ginger, looks after me. She motivates me to get moving. If I don’t get up, she doesn’t get fed. She helps me fight it, kisses and all,” Nadi Meyer said.
9. Braces and Mobility Devices
If you have limited mobility, struggling through it without any assistance will require you to spend even more energy. Braces, canes, walkers and wheelchairs help you save energy, leaving you more to spend on things you might have been too tired to do before.
“[I wear] braces on my knees and ankles daily. I have hypermobility, so wearing them helps take a little pressure off of my muscles to support my joints, and allows me to get at least some more things done,” Sarah Cole explained.