I have been especially bothered by fatigue recently as a symptom of my MS. I thought it would get better when the weather got cool. It didn't. I thought it would go away when I finished a big project and had a little more time. It's still here. I was positive that if I went to bed earlier, that I would banish my fatigue. Didn't work.
Although my assumptions were wrong and I still grapple with fatigue on a daily basis, I have learned a couple of things during my quest to be free of fatigue. By experimenting constantly, and carefully monitoring my reactions to different things, I have discovered that there are a couple of things that work to lessen my fatigue. Not all of them work all of the time, but if a couple of them occasionally lift the 500-pound weight of exhaustion just a little bit, that is still something.
I'll share my tips below, but I urge all of you who are suffering from fatigue (or any other MS symptom) to do the same thing – keep trying different things, then watch carefully to see how your body decides to react. You can even keep a symptom log, which I also recommend. You never know when you might find something that will give you some relief.
Here are some of the things that work to lessen my fatigue:
Eat Lots of Tiny Meals
Maybe it is more accurate to call these "snacks," but I find that when I eat just a little bit many times during the day, I get a little bit more energy than I have during the typical day of three large meals. The kind of snacks matter, as well – apple slices with almond butter or some large Spanish olives with crackers serve me better than a bag of Cheetos portioned out over the day. Again, I'm not advocating adding snacks into a program where you already have a large breakfast, lunch and dinner – the "tiny meals" are instead of the big, steaming plates of comfort food.
Try a Mini-Meditation
This is kind of like a very short nap, although you probably won't actually sleep during this little break. Read the full article: Try an MS "Mini-Meditation to Fight Fatigue
Walk or Move Somewhere
I know, I know – the suggestion of cheery people to "get moving to banish the blahs" annoys me, too – especially when I am tired. However, even if you are exhausted, you certainly can go outside and pull a few weeds or make it to the mailbox. Even better is going around the block or a farther destination, but don't be so ambitious that you scrap the whole idea.
Drink Something Cold
Every day, I make myself a large smoothie out of frozen blueberries, blackberries and cherries. It pulls me out of any bottomless pit of tiredness that I am in for the moment, mainly because it cools me down and jolts me out of any sleepy, warm, I-want-to-go-back-to-bed place that I am in. This also works with cold water for me – a squeeze of lemon or lime also wakes up the senses a little.
Change Your Environment
If I stay in one place for too long, I am certain to feel the drag of fatigue. Ideally, you can plan to go to the store or somewhere outside during the day, but even if you move from one room to another (preferably ones with lots of natural light), that is better than having the same view for hours on end. I have even used the guest bathroom for an "adventure" on days that I felt that was as far as I could venture out of my comfort zone.
Take a 5-Minute "Vacation"
What is your favorite thing to think about? Is it exotic places? Is it your hobby – cooking, gardening, watercolor? Is it an escape in a juicy novel? Whatever it might be, I am betting that your favorite thing to think about is most definitely not fatigue. However, if you let yourself, you may find that your mind sinks down to that dark place and you spend time exploring the depth of your tiredness. To counter this, when you feel yourself dragging around in the basement of fatigue thoughts, go to your "happy place," even if it is for 5 or 10 minutes. Pull out a magazine about cars, wander among your roses, find a new recipe. Totally lose yourself, even for a couple of minutes. When you come back to reality, it may be a little less exhausting to be you.
Have a Laugh
I have a friend whom I call when I am dragging. Mostly, we talk about the daily things that are happening in our lives. Boring stuff, really – a new recipe we saw but haven't tried, the last visit to the pediatrician, our extended families. We don't try to cheer each other up, but it inevitably happens – we are laughing within minutes of picking up the phone, even if we were both feeling overwhelmed (or over everything) just moments before. I bet you know someone like this. Call them and see what happens.
Don't Think It's Permanent
Even if nothing that I suggested works for you, I do know one thing that will make fatigue worse – entertaining the thought that this is how you will feel forever. Fatigue feeds on the idea that you will never have energy and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Try to look past the fatigue, even though I know it can be all-consuming. Distract yourself from the fatigue as much as you can. You are more than your fatigue – remember that.
NOTE: If you are depressed, you must seek help. Depression is a very common symptom of MS. Depression and fatigue have a complex relationship, with one feeding off of the other. If you have MS and feel very sad or have no interest in things around you, you need to address this with a doctor. (See the full articles: Depression and Multiple Sclerosis Overview, Fatigue or Depression?