Self-management of fatigue: Reducing the impact of fatigue

My previous blog explored the physical steps you can take to manage fatigue, but there are also important emotional and environmental consequences of fatigue. For me, this means accepting that there are some things I cannot do on a given day, which may make me disappointed. Harder still is accepting that there are some things I may never be able to do – this can turn into a long session of reexamining my future plans and dreams.
On a more immediate level, I often just get sad and angry that I don’t feel well. I even occasionally dip down into an ugly resentment that other people feel so much better and take their health for granted. I typically allow myself to wallow in these feelings for a while, until I end up getting so tired of myself that I talk to a friend, go for a walk or do something else to get me out of this dark place. Other people may find it helpful to talk to a therapist or engage in some other activity that helps them feel better.
There are also things we can do to manage our environments and optimize the world around us. One of the most important things you can do is build and maintain social networks. Not only can other people help you feel better by providing emotional support, friends can help out in a pinch when the fatigue is too much.
Another component of environmental management involves accessing information, transportation, public spaces and civic opportunities. ­ There are many resources for people with MS. Take advantage of them. Look online for different fatigue-fighting strategies and tips from other people living with MS. Contact the National MS Society to see what kinds of programs they may offer in your area, such as support groups or yoga classes. Apply for a disabled parking placard to help on those really bad days where a parking lot looks like a five-mile stretch of desert. 
Some people will be more successful than others at really doing all that they can to combat fatigue. Dr. Finlayson refers to the people who have the following characteristics as “activated patients.” These people:
  • Act in ways consistent with self-management
  • Have a good understanding about MS and fatigue
  • Actively share decision making with members of their health care teams
  • Manage and monitor their symptoms
  • Make adaptations and changes to reduce impact of fatigue on all aspects of life
  • Engage in healthy life behaviors
  • Are confident in their ability to identify and access resources 
All of these things are done with the goal of reducing the impact of fatigue on everyday life. Despite best efforts, some days we will be more successful in our fight against fatigue, while other days may feel impossible. The most important thing is to keep looking for ways to feel just a little bit better all of the time, while not blaming ourselves during those times when fatigue gets the upper hand.
Tags Research, Symptoms      11 Appreciate this

Julie Stachowiak, PhD

Julie is the author of the Multiple Sclerosis Manifesto, the winner of the 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the Health Category. She is an epidemiologist who is also a person living with MS, Julie has an in-depth understanding about current research and scientific developments around MS. She also has first-hand knowledge of the frustrations and anxiety surrounding the disease, as she had MS for at least 15 years before receiving a diagnosis in 2003 and has had several relapses since her diagnosis.