Fatigue is difficult. It is a common symptom of MS, an invisible beast which has two ways of attacking. Sometimes it ambushes you suddenly, with no warning, or it gently creeps up on you, gradually sucking all strength. Whichever tactic the monster uses, fatigue can contribute to decline in your mental health. Yesterday, I experienced it, and I used the following three methods to help me overcome the associated guilt.
For those of you who have MS, this you understand. When everyone else is busily being active, going for walks, cooking dinner or preparing for the next work activity, this symptom takes away our ability to do anything. We look healthy, fit and capable, but the associated weak limbs, slow thinking and deflated mental health, means we just want to stay in bed. Doing nothing. This makes us feel guilty, which can be worsened when those around us demonstrate their ability. It can be very difficult.
As a result I have learned to use the following three techniques to manage this overwhelming guilt:
Tip 1 – Daily meditation and journaling
Even on the bad days I will continue with this practice. I find meditation takes the sting out of fatigue. How does this work? It is difficult to say why, as I am only practicing this for a few years, but I think meditation gives our brain some time to process the world. Over time I have found I don’t have a negative emotional reaction to things over which I have no control. This could be someones negative reaction, or an adverse event. When these happen, meditation softens the blow, plus journalling gives you a chance to write down what happened, why did it happen, and what was your reaction. Only then can you figure out is it something you need to deal with, or its outside of your control.
Tip 2 – Planning/Pacing
I know fatigue will hit me occasionally, and how long it makes its presence felt can be for a day, or even a week. Perhaps even longer. Because I know it will happen I have learned to have enough flexibility in my routine to give me the time to get back my vitality. For example, after I wrote my post yesterday, my pain increased and fatigue hit. Because I have this extra space in my life I was able to spend most of the day on the couch, with my legs up, looking at Tik Tok, or watching an old movie. I went to bed early, and rested. From past experience I don’t try to get to sleep earlier, as it usually back fires on me, waking after a few hours, unable to get back to sleep.
Pacing is important too. Yesterday was bad and when I woke this morning I felt a bit more energy, but this is a false feeling, for me. So today I will not revert to my usual day, but I slow everything down. Taking extra time for everything. This really helps prevent overwhelm and getting frustrated when all your energy disappears because of over exertion. I know my best rhythm. This has come from listening to my body carefully, and doing what it tells me too do.
Tip 3 – Exercise and Diet
This might seem counter intuitive, but if you eat well and exercise, it gives you extra strength, to deal with the beast when it attacks. It is preventative medicine. If you are unfit, eat a poor diet, you are starting this battle with a massive extra burden around your neck. For the last three week I have been unable to exercise enough, and so my body has lost some of its ability. I went for a very short walk today and it was really hard. Despite using FES and a hip flexor assist device, all the muscles in my legs were sore, and I had to boost my FES to maximum. In short, I am unfit, and it only took three weeks to lose all the benefits of my previous six months of walking and exercise.
Diet is crucial too. Eating enough vegetables and fruit, while reducing the amount of grains and red meat, helps to give more energy. For the last few months I have not heeded my own advice, eating pizza’s and not enough veg. I am responsible for what goes into my mouth, and I have been a bad boy. So now I must improve my diet again. The advantage I have is I know I can do this, because I did it before. I have the experience of success. This helps and it creates a positive cycle. That must be good.
Bonus Tip – Find a project
I am a great believer is having projects. A few days I wrote about this, mentioning goals, especially different types. Some big, and other small. Fatigue makes even the smallest goal a challenge, but I have many of them scattered through my day. Such as today, I wrote in my journal. I would walk, and I did. This post is another of my daily goals, and I am writing it, so this is another success. When I am finished I will sit in the sun, getting some medicinal vitamin D. Three goal to achieve in the day. I feel successful, a winner, despite fatigue.
I hope you find these useful. These are my goto tips which help maintain my mental health and avoids the guilt associated with fatigue. By practicing all of these, continually, I don’t feel guilty when I take a day, or even a few days, off. Looking after my energy. The bonus tip has the power to make me feel positive about myself, despite not being able to do much. I wish you the best in using all of these tips to make all your days better.