Everyone feels tired at times

Everyone feels tired at times - but fatigue is a more debilitating tiredness and lack of energy. It is often not improved by rest and affects your daily life. It can stop you doing things that are important to you and can have a huge emotional impact. It may affect your roles in life and your social life. You may also experience difficulty with concentrating, remembering and making decisions, and sleep problems and low mood.

Fatigue can be experienced differently by different people and can be hard for others to understand. Illness and some treatments often affect the processes in your body that regulate your energy levels.

Watch our video about living well with fatigue here:

What can you do about it if you are experiencing fatigue?

The first thing to do is talk to a health care professional, such as your GP, or your Mountbatten nurse or doctor. It might be that some of the causes of your fatigue can be addressed, such as pain, medications or anaemia. You might also need some support and advice about your diet and food intake if you are losing weight or can’t eat very much.

If fatigue is having an impact on your life, there are changes you can make to your everyday life that can help. Trying to do too much at a fast pace will lead to big dips in your energy levels that will take longer to recover from (see the blue line). If you do a little, then take a break before you get too fatigued, you will be able to preserve your energy and achieve more throughout the day (see the orange line).

There are many ways you can adapt how you do everything tasks to preserve your energy. Some are small changes, but they can make a big difference overall. There are 6 strategies that can help with preserving and making the most of the energy you do have, so you can improve your quality of life. 

THE 6 ‘P’s

  • Prioritising - Prioritise the jobs and activities that are most important to you and reduce or cut out tasks that are less important.   Save your energy for the things that are most important to you

  • Permission - Give yourself permission NOT to do things that make your fatigue worse, or those things that aren’t so important to you.   Learning to say ‘no’ is an important part of taking control over your time and energy

  • Planning - Make a list of the most important things you want to do during your day and across your week. Break down large tasks into smaller steps that can be spread throughout the day. Spread tasks across the week so you don’t have too much to do in any one day.   Plan to allow more time for each activity, so, there is time to stop and rest frequently

  • Pacing - Balance activities with rest. It is much better to take frequent short rests rather than one or two long ones. Rest before you become fatigued, so you avoid that big dip in your energy levels.   Don’t keep going until you are too fatigued to continue – stop to rest before this

  • Problem solving - Find ways to make tasks less demanding, such as sitting to do something rather than standing, and using a trolley to move an item rather than carrying it.    Adapt the way you do things to make tasks less demanding

  • Positioning - Position yourself and things in your home so you can avoid excessive twisting, bending and reaching.   Rearrange things in your home so the things you use most often are within easy reach.

Mountbatten Occupational Therapist, Caroline Stack, talks more about how to use the 6 ‘P’s to preserve your energy and manage fatigue in your everyday life in the video (see link above)

For further information and tips on how to preserve your energy, see our leaflet: Living Well with Fatigue.

Rest and Relaxation

Making time for rest and relaxation is vital in dealing with fatigue. Find what works for you. Some people find it relaxing to sit and do something they enjoy, such as reading, listening to music or a simple craft or art activity. Some people find a guided relaxation session helpful. There are CDs or podcasts you can buy that lead you through a relaxation session. Or you could use our relaxation video which will guide you through a relaxation session:

It is important to balance relaxation and activity.  It is understandable that you might not want to do much while you are feeling fatigued, and this can lead to you becoming less active over time. When your muscles are not being used regularly, they become weaker. Having weak muscles means you will find it very difficult and tiring to do even the simplest of things. Keeping as active as you are able to, and keeping your muscles as strong as possible can improve your energy levels and help with fatigue. It can also help you sleep better at night, and help with anxiety and depression. It might help to talk to your Mountbatten nurse about a referral to a physiotherapist, who will be able to help you with an exercise program tailored to your needs to help you build muscle strength safely. Or you might like to try some gentle exercise with the following videos:

Adapted Tai Chi

Seated Yoga

Keeping Active

As well as doing some gentle exercise, try to get up every so often during the day and walk short distances, even if that is around the house so you are not sitting still for too long. Try to find something to do each day that you enjoy, whether that’s phoning to talk to someone, a craft activity, or a short walk outside.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety uses up more energy and can make you feel more tired.

You may find it helpful to discuss how you feel with your partner, someone else in your family, or a friend. Or you could ask your Mountbatten nurse if you would like to speak to one of Mountbatten's Clinical Psychologists or counsellors as part of our Bereavement Support.

Better Sleep

If you are struggling to sleep at night, have a look at our leaflet about managing sleep difficulties.