Managing fatigue in multiple sclerosis: a practical guide
Fatigue is the most tracked symptom in Emilyn with over 80% of users reporting it. Fatigue is not just tiredness, it’s described as an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. Explaining fatigue to other people can be difficult and it’s often called an ‘invisible symptom’.
When you’re experiencing fatigue you can struggle with even the simplest of tasks like making a drink or holding a conversation. It can be made worse by things like warm weather and your activity levels during the day.
In this article we've outlined the different ways to manage and treat fatigue
Use your energy wisely
It’s tempting to do lots of things when you’re feeling good so you can get them out of the way. The problems with doing that is that you may experience a crash in energy later on either in the day or week.
Plan: Think about what’s achievable
Take some time to stop and think about what you need to do and when you can achieve it. Keeping a diary of your tasks and how they affect your fatigue can help with this.
Prioritise: Focus on the most important tasks
Work out what are the most important things for you to do each day and do those first. These should include social and fun activities too, your mental health is a priority and sometimes the housework can wait.
Delegate: Ask others for help
This one can be easier said than done but is a vital tool. Friends and family can help but if you can afford to employing a cleaner or dog walker can be a great help.
Save energy: Do tasks efficiently
Online shopping, parking closer to work and sitting down to do tasks can all help conserve energy.
Pace yourself: Take regular breaks
Break up tasks and take rests in between. It doesn’t have to be a nap but just taking five minutes sat down will mean you can do more overall.
This framework is from the MS Trust, you can find out more on their website.
It might feel counterintuitive when you’re exhausted to talk about exercise but doing some physical activity is essential for maintaining your wellbeing and energy levels. If you become weaker due to doing less, your body has to work harder when you are moving which increases fatigue. Talk to your medical team about an appropriate exercise plan for you.
It doesn’t need to be much either, fit something in where you can and every small chunk is better than nothing.
Eat and drink well
Boring but important. Focus on eating food that give you energy and help you maintain a healthy weight. Limiting alcohol consumption will also help with your sleep and all round wellbeing. A hangover + fatigue is not a good combo!
Medication can be used in combination with other fatigue management techniques covered here. You can discuss options with your health team and also review if anything else you’re taking might be affecting your fatigue.
Other medication can also make you more fatigued so make sure you talk to your health team to review your treatments.
Resources and courses for fatigue management
A six part course developed by researchers at Bournemouth University and Dorset MS Service.
A 90 minute course in 6 videos available on YouTube.
An 8 minute interview with an occupational therapist covering working with fatigue, managing the heat and living with a young family.