Are you feeling fatigued? Exhausted by a full schedule? Are your joints feeling sore because you’ve been stressing them all day or opposite, not moving all day? In today’s post, we will be discussing what is fatigue and how we can help ourselves manage it via energy conservation techniques.
Fatigue vs. Tiredness, Let’s Get Technical
When we come home after a long day of work, we might say that we’re feeling “exhausted” or “tired” but how is that different from being fatigued? By definition, fatigue is a “state of excessive chronic tiredness and a pervasive feeling of exhaustion.” What we commonly feel after a long day of work filled with physical or mental exertion is called tiredness or sometimes called acute fatigue. It is the excessive chronic nature of fatigue that is the key difference between being fatigued and feeling tired or exhausted.
Fatigue can come as the result of various conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, COPD, concussion, multiple sclerosis, and can also affect people who have sustained a spinal cord injury. It can negatively affect your motivation to be active, your ability to perform simple tasks, sleep-wake cycle, mood states, and self-efficacy. Altogether, this can turn into a feedback loop which can decrease one’s quality of life.
Energy Conservation Tips
Energy conservation consists of several principles and techniques which help you alter the way activities are done and change how your day is structured in order to minimize fatigue, joint stress, and pain. Although it is often mentioned as a method to help manage fatigue for specific conditions, the general principles remain the same and can be relevant for anybody looking to better manage their energy levels.
These are the 4 Ps of energy conservation: prioritize, plan, pace, and position and posture.
- Prioritize your activities for each day. Try to do heavier tasks (whether they’re more mentally exhausting or physically exhausting) when you have more energy
- Plan your schedule ahead of time. Be sure to include rest times and set up your work area to minimize unnecessary movement and stress
- Pace yourself. Break up a task into smaller parts if possible, and don’t rush. Take 10 minutes every hour to rest. It’s okay if you can’t finish everything all at once!
- Position and posture are important to preserve your energy and improve your breathing. Choose a relaxing environment to help you focus.
These are just some general energy conservation tips for anyone who feels they’re running on low every day. Below are some more things to consider when employing energy conservation techniques:
- Practice mindfulness and do your best to keep a positive attitude! Studies have shown that individuals with lower mood scores tend to have higher ratings of fatigue.1
- Understand what triggers your (or your client’s) fatigue to avoid crashing after using up all your energy on one activity
- Plan visits and research accessibility details about locations prior to visiting
- Consider the following aspects of an activity when making your plan: speed, time, strength, resistance, distance, rest, complexity, and psychological factors (motivation/mood/stress)
- Use assistive devices as necessary to save energy, reduce joint stress, and make completing activities easier
If you are struggling with fatigue or extreme tiredness that is preventing you from functioning at your normal level, physiotherapy can help manage fatigue and deal with its symptoms. Our skilled physiotherapists can offer advice, support and treatment to those who feel fatigue is affecting their life. Find a physiotherapist near you.
*This article was written by Alice Chan, a physiotherapy student at McMaster University on placement at pt Health.