chronic fatigue
chronic fatigue

5 Tips For Managing Your Chronic Fatigue

Posted on April 4, 2024 by Henry Ford Health Staff
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If you’re one of the millions of Americans living with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), you know how difficult it can be. The constant fatigue can make even basic, everyday tasks hard to accomplish.

There’s currently no cure for CFS (also called myalgic encephalomyelitis), so treatments focus on managing symptoms. “It’s a very challenging diagnosis,” admits Nessreen Rizvi, M.D., a primary care physician at Henry Ford Health. “But using strategies that conserve your energy can help you achieve a balanced, healthy lifestyle.”

1. Get To Know Your Limits

The first thing Dr. Rizvi recommends to people who’ve just been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome is to keep a diary. “Record your food, activity and sleep,” she says. “And note whether it was a good day or bad day in terms of your energy level and chronic fatigue symptoms.”

Over time, you should start to see patterns and recognize things that make your symptoms either better or worse. Once you have a better sense of your limits, you can begin to structure your life to accommodate them.

“Every day, prioritize what needs to get done,” suggests Dr. Rizvi. “Then see how you can break those tasks up and make time for rest in between.”

2. Make Good Sleep A Priority

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It’s a cruel irony that people with chronic fatigue often have trouble getting the restful sleep they need. But better self-care for chronic fatigue syndrome starts with better sleep. Good sleep hygiene is important for everyone, but it’s critical for people with chronic fatigue.

Basic rules of sleep hygiene include:

  • Establishing a consistent schedule of bedtimes and wake-up times
  • Keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet
  • Limiting alcohol intake in the evening
  • Not looking at screens (phone, television, tablets) right before bed
  • Winding down toward bedtime with relaxing rituals (meditation, yoga, journaling, reading, a warm bath)

3. Exercise, But Don’t Overdo It

When you’re struggling to find the energy just to get through your day’s to-do list, exercise is likely a low priority. But when you achieve the right balance of exertion and rest, exercise can actually improve your symptoms.

“Doing some exercise that you enjoy—especially outdoors—can help your mood and even feel invigorating,” says Dr. Rizvi. Most everyone can benefit from relaxing forms of exercise like walking, stretching or gentle yoga.

It’s important not to overexert yourself when exercising. That can sap your energy and leave you too tired to accomplish other important tasks.

4. Learn To Say No

Conserving energy and pacing yourself are key to managing life with chronic fatigue. But you may also have to come to terms with simply doing less.

“It’s important not to take on too much or spread yourself too thin,” says Dr. Rizvi. Take a good look at your priorities and see which things you can take off your plate. That may mean scaling back work commitments, sitting out some volunteering at your kids’ school or skipping social obligations.

“Don’t put too much expectation on yourself,” says Dr. Rizvi, “and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ when you need to.”

5. Make Time For Mental Health

CFS can also take a toll on your mental health. “Stress, depression and anxiety often overlap in people who are coping with chronic fatigue,” says Dr. Rizvi.

The physical limitations of CFS can impact your relationships and cause more stress. Seeking counseling for your emotional health can help you better cope with your condition. “In some cases, your doctor may recommend anti-depressant medication,” says Dr. Rizvi.

Stress reduction techniques can help manage anxiety and improve mental health. These could include things like:

“Whatever your experience with chronic fatigue looks like, realize you’re not alone,” says Dr. Rizvi. “Establish a good relationship with your primary care physician who can help you successfully manage your symptoms and live a full life.”


Reviewed by Dr. Nessreen Rizvi, an internal medicine physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Columbus in Novi.
Categories : FeelWell
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