Chronic fatigue introduces a host of challenges into a person’s everyday life, but it doesn’t have to decimate your quality of life. Living with chronic fatigue is not easy, but managing your condition and achieving relief is not only completely doable, but also something that you can work toward every day. You don’t have to completely overhaul your habits and lifestyle in order to improve your quality of life with chronic fatigue; as is the case with most chronic conditions, the small choices you make every day can have a major impact. Though we recommend speaking to a physician about the best course of chronic fatigue treatment for you, these five tips are a great place to start if you want to incorporate healthy habits into your day to day that make a difference without being overwhelming. Let’s get started.
1. Intentional Movement
One of the most harmful mentalities to adopt is the one that fixates on “all or nothing.” You don’t have to be running multiple miles a day or hitting personal strength records weekly in order to work some beneficial movement into your day. With that said, getting some movement multiple times a week can be monumentally beneficial for your mental and physical health. Repeated peer-reviewed studies have shown that exercise helps to regulate emotions, reduce stress, improve sleep quality, bolster our mind-body connection, and improve our cardiovascular health.
Chronic fatigue can make the concept of exercise daunting, if not altogether unrealistic. The key to working movement into your day, even in the face of chronic fatigue, is to take it one step at a time. Go for a short walk around your neighborhood, do some light stretches, or follow a short workout video. If you feel like you want to keep going, do so; if you feel like you want to stop, it’s OK to do that, too. As long as you’re not pushing yourself to the point of injury or exhaustion, any exercise is good. Aim to get some at least 3 times per week.
Like exercise, meditation has been linked to a variety of benefits–especially when it comes to mental and emotional health. Even five minutes of daily meditation can help with stress levels, mood, sleep quality, anxiety, and self-awareness. Brain fog and irritability are common side effects of chronic fatigue. Meditation gives your mind the space it needs to relax, allowing you to ground yourself in the present moment without worrying about the past or future. If you’re having trouble achieving restful sleep–or falling asleep at all–meditation can be a fantastic way to afford your mind some much-needed rest.
3. Nourishing Yourself
More and more studies are finding a significant link between gut health and the neurological system, meaning that gut health can have an impact on a variety of neurological functions, including cognition and emotion. Beyond the potential impact that our gut bacteria have on our cognitive function, however, is the truth that food is medicine. Eating a balanced diet composed primarily of whole foods that are nutrient-dense is key to achieving a higher quality of life in the face of chronic fatigue. A diet that’s high in refined sugars, processed foods, and caffeine will exacerbate some of the symptoms of chronic fatigue, including tiredness, mood swings, and brain fog. You don’t have to eat a “perfect” whole-foods diet, but try to be intentional about incorporating these foods into your daily routine as much as possible.
4. Screen-Free Time
Blue wavelengths, which is what we see when we look at our phone, tablet, and computer screens, have been shown to make it harder for us to fall asleep (or to achieve the high-quality sleep we need in order to feel rested). Limiting screen time about an hour before bed has been linked to improved sleep times and quality of sleep. Of course, chronic fatigue is more complicated than the question of sleep; it’s linked to a variety of genetic and lifestyle factors and underlying medical conditions. With that said, reducing screen time isn’t just likely to help chronic fatigue patients sleep better for longer. Less screen time is also linked to lower rates of anxiety, depression, and stress, all of which can be symptoms of chronic fatigue.
5. A Change of Scenery
With more people working from home than ever, it can be easy to fall into a routine that leaves us in our homes for days at a time. For those experiencing chronic fatigue, even a small change of scenery can have a considerable impact on mood, energy, and mental health–especially for those who work from home. Be sure to get some fresh air at least once a day. Spend a few minutes on your porch, backyard, or on a walk around your neighborhood. If possible, take advantage of the beautiful nature Tampa Bay has to offer; go for a walk, to watch the sunset, or to read a book on the beach, at a local park, or anywhere you’re able to visit. Even a few minutes spent outside (or in a different setting than the one in which you spend most of your time) can provide a much-needed mood and energy boost.
None of the solutions outlined above is a cure-all for chronic fatigue. However, together, each of these small habits can make a perceptible difference in your daily life as you move along your health journey. If you’re looking to achieve relief from chronic fatigue, the best thing you can do is work with a physician whose treatment plans are tailored to the needs of each patient. To learn more about how functional medicine can be used to make major strides in chronic fatigue treatment, schedule an appointment here.