A few weeks ago I talked about my experience of fatigue, fatigue management and what fatigue can feel like. I discussed the difference between tiredness and fatigue along with reasons why after a heart attack, heart surgery or living with heart disease we might have fatigue, what it is and the potential causes. Hopefully, you’ve used my shared suggestions to help you accept and recognise the impact of the physical and emotional effects of fatigue. If you haven’t listened to it yet it is episode #021 Fatigue, the what, the why and the how-to work it out, remember you don’t have to listen you can read my article instead, it’s the same link.
This week I am talking more about “how-to” live life with fatigue and minimise the impact. I talk through more tools, rules and ideas to help you manage fatigue and conserve your energy.
But before I do, how did you go with last week’s relaxamation, forgiveness is a gift I give to myself? I hope you enjoyed it and have continued to use the affirmations this week. As I mentioned in episode #21 when I talked about fatigue, Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) is a good tool for not only relaxing but also it can help you to re-energise.
I also mentioned getting checked out with your doctor and keeping a sleep record. Hopefully, this will have helped identify any obvious causes of your fatigue and will give you the confidence to try some other tools and protocols to help you feel better and manage fatigue.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Get the best sleep at night possible. No tech for an hour, wind down in the evening, lower lights and try to keep to a regular routine for bedtime. Whist sleep doesn’t remedy fatigue getting the best sleep possible is a good foundation. I have loads of tips and ideas to help you get a good night’s sleep, download my free checklist: 53 ideas to help you sleep easy.
Is napping a good idea?
If you do want to take a nap, there is nothing wrong with that. However, there is a right way to do napping so that it doesn’t impact your nighttime sleep. I will explain why in another article but here’s the optimum way to have a beneficial cat nap (you may prefer to use the term PowerNap).
How to nap successfully
- Keep it to between 20-30 minutes or less. This will avoid going through a complete sleep cycle and only burn off a little of the sleep drive so you can be more awake without affecting your nighttime sleep.
- Keep it short and sweet, using a timer is a good idea.
- The earlier in the day the better, late morning or early afternoon not later than 2-3 pm.
Eating & drinking well
Make sure you are drinking enough water as sometimes you can feel tired when you are slightly dehydrated.
Eat on a regular schedule as this will help maintain your energy throughout the day. It’s best not to overeat or have large meals, little and often can work well. When you’ve eaten a large meal, your body will use a lot of energy to digest it.
Try not to skip a meal as this can cause your blood sugar to dip making you feel tired. It is good to eat enough protein and foods rich in iron.
Avoid sugar and caffeine as well as alcohol and marijuana as they will generally make fatigue worse. Gradually reduce down until you can abstain completely for 4 weeks to see if you feel less tired.
Another for the avoids and don’t list is being behind a wheel when you are exhausted. Fatigue and driving are not a good combination. Make sure you have a plan in mind for just in case for your safety and the safety of others. It is worth carrying something with you in the car you can use as a pillow or blanket, you can store this in the boot/trunk. If you do stop, make sure it is somewhere safe and the vehicle is locked. It would be a good idea to let someone know that you are taking a nap.
Pay attention to the warning signs of drowsiness on the road. If you become aware of doing any of the following, then should pull over and take a nap or change driver. Each on its own may not be a cause for concern but more than one then you need to think of your safety.
- yawning and blinking
- not remembering the last few miles, they have driven
- missing an exit
- drifting across the lane
- driving onto a rumble strip
- having trouble staying focused
Self-awareness for fatigue management
Start keeping a journal, just a random notepad will do. Pay attention to what triggers your fatigue, is there any activities that make you more fatigued than others? Are there particular times of the day? Learn to identify the early signs of fatigue, such as becoming more irritable or distracted.
Once you can recognise the early signs you will feel that you have a little more control. This will then allow you to stop an activity before getting tired.
We all make attention or memory slips from time to time, but these become more frequent when we are tired and fatigued. A couple of suggestions would be when trying to focus your mental attention on something specific it’s a good idea to remove all distractions like turning off background noise. Use technology as reminders, and start setting using alarms and reminders to help you stay on track and achieve things. Amazon’s Alexa is really cool at keeping me on top of things. She will ask me what the reminder is for so I know what it is I’m supposed to be doing.
Keep a list of things, plans for the day etc and tick things off. You’ll get a buzz of satisfaction from the act of completing and then the ticking off the list.
It is important to accept the reality that your usual To-Do list will not be accomplished today. I always find by writing a list I get it out of my head and then I can prioritise the things that I want to or must get down today.
When talking to yourself
Do you talk to yourself? I do. Notice what thoughts you are having, do you find yourself saying I am so tired, I am exhausted, I haven’t got the energy? If so, then I would like to consider what would happen if you changed that self-talk, not to something that is untrue but to something that is empowering.
Some examples of your thoughts might be:
“I am so tired; I can’t do this”. Try changing this to: “I am okay and I will do what I can”.
“I am always exhausted and can’t do what I want to”. How about changing this to: “My energy flows up and down throughout the day, I will rest when I need to and take advantage of the up times”.
“What’s the point, I am never going to get any better”. This is important to change so how about trying: “I’m going to have a go and do my best”.
Use your voice
Remember that it is a sign of strength to ask for help, it is not weakness. Ask for what you need, delegate to others and oversee if you feel you need to. People really do like being asked to help, it makes them feel good and it makes you happy. So it is a win/win for all although do bear in mind they may so no, but it might have an alternative or different idea.
It’s also worth learning to say no. It is hard when someone asks something of us especially if they are important to us. However, part of learning to manage your energy is knowing that No is a complete sentence and that No can be just for now and you can negotiate to a time when you know you will have energy. More on this later too.
Lifestyle and exercise
Despite feeling tired, exercise will help increase your energy and reduce fatigue. Always speak to your doctor if you are taking up an active sport or activity. For fatigue, I would suggest doing some gentle modified (to suit your condition) stretching or yoga. Getting out for a walk, especially in nature is healing and energising for the mind and the body too. I like to stand barefoot on the ground and use breathing exercises to raise my energy.
Why not see if you can find a new (or old) hobby/interest that absorbs you. You might want to consider volunteering, be sure to explain about your fatigue they will definitely understand.
Another idea to raise your get-up-and-go would be to watch a funny film or read a funny book. I am sure you have your favourites or there is plenty to watch on Netflix or other streaming networks. For ideas, you can download my no cost gift, called Finding Laughter. It’s my curated list of 94 movies, tv-series, books and songs that will put a smile on your face. You can download it for free from
My most important thoughts….
- Respect your recovering body, what it can do today, and what it can’t.
- Alternate periods of activity and rest.
- While resting, plan for what you’ll do when you are more able.
So that concludes my top tips and ideas for today, give one or two a go and see how it goes. Remember it is different strokes for different folks and what works for some doesn’t work with others. You are unique. Keep an open mind and take good care of your energy. I will be talking about alternating activity and rest along with energy management another time.
What could get in your way of fatigue management?
I am too fatigued to even bother! I do appreciate how hard it might seem but if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Set yourself a challenge find/choose/decide on one thing and give it a go.
Recap and conclusion
- Sleep – whilst it doesn’t get rid of fatigue is a good place to start. It means you only have to deal with the fatigue and not tiredness too.
- Nutrition – keep hydrated and an even blood sugar level if you can.
- Being safe when travelling – that means you and other people too.
- Self-awareness – get to know yourself and what helps, tame that voice that tells you stuff that doesn’t serve you well.
- Lifestyle – move around, despite being counterintuitive it will help especially if you’re outside with nature.
- Loving and respecting your body – fatigue management it’s the only way!
So as I sign off now, remember the beat goes on one moment at a time. Go be magnificent!
- Download my zero cost Sleep Easy Journal which will help you have conversations with your medical team and identify or rule out any sleep issues.
- Use my download 53 ideas to help you sleep easy, it’s free and gives a framework to start ensuring you get a good night’s sleep.
- Jump on the waitlist for my 6 weeks to Sleep Easy after a Cardiac Event workshop.
- Join me and others on Facebook in the My Heart & Mind Community.