I have a secret. You may roll your eyes at me when you hear this one.
It’s how I juggle spending time with family and friends, running a business, and exercising while managing fatigue.
If you know me, you know my secret. Or maybe you never realized I was doing it.
The truth is that fatigue sucks. If you have multiple sclerosis, you’ll understand what I mean. Fatigue, which is one of my main symptoms, varies for everyone and can happen at any time. It also can feel different, depending on what activities you have been doing.
Sometimes it feels like someone pulled the plug and all my energy drained out. Other times it feels like my body is concrete, and I’m walking through molasses. Sometimes fatigue affects my brain, and I struggle to speak in a straight line, let alone walk in one. I am straight delirious.
It can start in the morning as soon as I wake up. Some days, I wake up energetic. Other days, I feel like I haven’t slept in weeks (despite getting a good 10 hours). My energy is different from one day to the next. It depends on the day’s activities. Fatigue can also be different from hour to hour.
It can feel impossible to manage fatigue in our busy lives. We have work, grocery shopping, friends, birthdays, co-workers, game nights, and family commitments. It’s hard to find a balance, especially when we feel like we can’t let anyone down.
But hope is not lost. I may have found the answer.
I’ve always been the planner type. I love a good plan — it brings me certainty and a sense of control. A long time ago, when I first developed MS, I realized I could take my planning obsession to a new level.
I add every activity I do to my calendar, including waking up, exercising, journaling, meditating, resting, working, and walking the dog. Everything is in there.
Waking up with a plan prepares my brain the night before. It tells my brain, “OK, this is what will happen tomorrow. We will wake up, then we will do XYZ activity, and in the afternoon, we will rest.”
Some days I wake up feeling exhausted, so I’ll alter my morning routine by doing a lighter five to 10 minutes of exercise. I’ll do something less strenuous, such as stretching or breathing exercises. I always feel better when I’ve exercised.
Being able to control fatigue comes with a degree of self-discipline. Sticking to a routine is vital.
Planning also helps with those guilty feelings we all have about resting. If you have something big in your calendar that you know will leave you fatigued the next day, book out some rest time. If you have rest time booked in your calendar, resting feels much better than if you’re ignoring a long to-do list.
The weekends demonstrate the importance of planning for me. I generally don’t have a plan for the weekends. Instead, I listen to what my body needs. If it needs sleep, I sleep. If it needs a lazy day, that’s what we do. If it wants to be creative, I get creative. If, on the rare occasion I have excess energy, I want to bake cakes all day, that’s what we do.
If you’re struggling with fatigue, try planning out your activities in a calendar. It’s a lot easier to see which activities cause you the most fatigue, and it reminds you to rest when you’ve done a lot in a day.
How do you manage fatigue? Do you use a calendar system? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.
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