Fatigue. It’s the number-one symptom that COVID-19 “long haulers” reported in a survey conducted by the Indiana University School of Medicine and Survivor Corps. COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness and persistent symptoms – even in young adults and people with no or few underlying medical conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are many possible causes of acute and chronic fatigue. It is always a good idea to review your symptom history with your primary care provider to make sure other correctable causes are not missed. Chronic fatigue can make completing daily tasks frustrating. Here are some strategies to try when dealing with long-term fatigue:
1. Find Your Energy Envelope
Learn your new individual limits for mental and physical activity. If you use more energy than you have available for a task, your symptoms may intensify. Experts call this living outside of the “energy envelope.” Over time, living inside your energy envelope may give you the ability to reduce your symptoms and expand your limits.
2. Pace Activities
Balancing rest and activity are critical to managing long-term fatigue. After you discover your limits for different activities, try to structure your day so that you have time to rest after something that takes a lot of energy.
3. Start Small
Fatigue can make the everyday seem impossible – but every step you take towards returning to your “normal” is progress. At first, try one minute of activity followed by three minutes of rest. This can apply to light exercise like walking, or simple housework. Over time, build up your active time (while increasing your rest time). Talk to your primary care provider before beginning any new exercise routines.
4. Small Meals
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is critical to helping your body keep your energy level consistent. Avoid sugary foods, sweeteners, alcohol and caffeine, which can throw your energy levels out of balance. Try eating three small meals and three snacks throughout the day to keep yourself moving without crashing.
5. Use a Planner
Don’t underestimate the mental load of managing schedules, appointments, medication reminders, passwords and phone numbers. Use a planner, sticky notes or smart phone application to keep yourself on track without having to solely rely on your memory.
Rest is critical to healing. Talk to your primary care provider if you are having difficulty sleeping or forming good sleep habits.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you work and are finding it difficult to keep up with your tasks, talk to your primary care provider. You may have a diagnosable condition that could qualify for coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA requires some employers to make reasonable accommodations. Additionally, a major medical diagnosis can lead to mental health concerns. Chronic fatigue can also lead to depression, stress and anxiety. Talk to your primary care provider to see if they recommend managing these conditions through medication or talk therapy. Self-management tools can include deep breathing, muscle relaxation and movement like yoga, stretching or tai chi. More from MIBluesPerspectives:
- How COVID-19 Can Affect Your Sense of Smell
- COVID-19 Vaccines: What You Should Know
- Mentally Exhausted from the COVID-19 Pandemic? You’re Not Alone
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