Reduce fatigue and take back control of your day by identifying triggers, cultivating a fatigue management plan, and optimizing techniques that can maximize your energy.
According to the National MS Society, fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis and it affects more than 80% of people in the MS community. It can impair a person’s life and it is undeniably one of the most common reasons people are unable to continue to work.
What is MS fatigue?
MS fatigue is whole-body tiredness and a daily lack of energy that is not restored by adequate sleep. It can come on suddenly and get worse as the day progresses. It occurs on most days and things like stress, heat, and humidity make it worse. Fatigue is not the same as just being tired as it can affect your ability to function.
MS can damage the nerve cells in the brain which will prevent or slow communication between the brain and the body. This means that it takes more energy for the brain to send and deliver messages, which results in fatigue.
The difference between primary and secondary fatigue-
Primary fatigue is caused by the MS itself due to damage to the CNS (Central Nervous System) or because of changes in the brain. Secondary MS fatigue results from other factors like MS symptoms, other underlying medical conditions, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
Objective and subjective fatigue assessments-
A person’s performance during testing, such as their reaction time or the number of errors made, is used to measure fatigue objectively.
Subjective ways to assess fatigue include interviews and studies of patient journals and questionnaires.
Measuring disabling fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis-
The Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) is a method of quantifying disability in Multiple Sclerosis and monitoring changes in the level of disability over time. The results can vary depending on the neurological examinations. For more information on EDSS, Click Here
How does fatigue make you feel?
Everyone describes fatigue in different ways but most people say they feel like their limbs are being weighed down or it’s like walking through quicksand. Brain fog like severe jet lag is also described and that it’s bad enough to impact daily activities.
With fatigue, a person is completely depleted and anything from cognitive abilities and mobility issues to performing daily activities like showering, dressing, or meal preparation can be affected.
12 Warning signs of fatigue:
- Inability to concentrate.
- Heavy limbs.
- Blurry vision.
- Balance issues.
- Lack of energy.
- Sensory issues.
- Muscle spasms or stiffness.
- Brain fog.
- Cognitive dysfunction.
Resources are limited! You are not the Energizer Bunny ™
Energy conservation techniques such as the Spoon Theory and the Energy Bank Theory assign a spoon or a dollar amount for each unit of energy. The goal is to utilize the use of energy throughout the day up to your limit of spoons, or energy amount.
Energy levels fluctuate and are influenced by environmental factors, so another concept to conserve energy is to start the day envisioning an imaginary full battery storing a daily fuel allotment. The battery will run down as fast or as slow as it is drained, so know your energy-sapping triggers and plan priority activities during peak energy times.
13 Tips to reduce fatigue and take back control of your day!
Identify your fatigue triggers-
- Lack of sleep.
- Nutritional deficiencies.
- Extreme temperature changes.
- Medication side-effects.
Plan your schedule in advance-
- Write down upcoming tasks, activities, and appointments.
- Decide which actions are the most physically or mentally demanding.
- Balance activities to conserve energy by arranging the more tiring tasks at your peak energy times.
Determine which responsibilities are the most important and schedule them into your planner. Put the rest on a to-do list.
Save energy by structuring your living and work areas for efficiency. Clean out clutter and keep the items used the most within easy reach. A more minimalistic approach can also reduce stress which in turn reduces fatigue.
Ask for help and be specific.
Schedule breaks or naps to rest and recharge after periods of mental or physical exertion.
An elevated core temperature of even a ½ degree can trigger MS symptoms including fatigue. With this in mind, do a little recognizance when you are making your plans. For instance, find out in advance what the environment will be like. Specifically, if there is shade, air-conditioning, a water source, or a quiet place to cool off away from the sun or heat. Remember that hot tubs, saunas, fire pits, fireplaces, and central heating can also provoke fatigue.
Strengthen your muscles-
Weak muscles use more energy which can lead to worsening fatigue.
It’s important to avoid over-exertion. The National MS Society warns that fatigue after a workout should not last longer than 2 hours. In fact, doctors recommend that anyone who experiences this level of fatigue should reduce the intensity, frequency, or duration of their workouts.
Practice stress management-
Reduce fatigue by doing things that lower the level of stress in your body. Meditation, walking, tai chi, and journaling are great ways to manage stress. Here are another 10 strategies to reduce stress.
Learn self-management skills and strategies to overcome any barriers with everyday activities in a way that will simplify tasks and conserve energy.
Prevent deconditioning, strengthen muscles, improve balance, and learn energy-saving ways to complete daily activities.
Fuel your body –
Have more energy by eating nutrient-dense foods and drinking clean water to help cells function at top capacity.
Create a management plan to maximize energy, reduce fatigue and take back control of your day!
Your body has a limited amount of daily energy to function efficiently. Pay attention to what triggers fatigue for you and plan accordingly. Practice these energy conservation strategies and you will have the tools needed to effectively take charge of your day.
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Thanks to Lin Thongsot for allowing me to share this photo of her napping during our picnic at Malahide Castle. Therefore, perfectly demonstrating what it looks like to listen to your body and rest when you need to.