MS Fatigue: Feeling Neglected Like an Old Car Battery (Part 2)
Fatigue is one of the most powerful MS symptoms that I experience on a regular basis. It is also included on my list of concerns when I visit the neurologist. But not all fatigue is the same. For me, fatigue can be physical, mental, and/or emotional.
Dealing with MS fatigue
Physical fatigue makes my body feel heavy and sluggish. Mental fatigue makes it difficult to problem solve and make decisions. Emotional fatigue makes it hard to objectively interpret life, like looking through a clouded lens.
Finding balance is a challenge
When l am full of energy, it is tempting to do as much as possible. I try to be super productive, like superwoman, getting things done: laundry, shopping, cleaning, writing, exercising, and more. But unlike driving my car for long distances, which can recharge the battery, super productive activity levels are an easy way to run my internal battery down to dangerously low levels.
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how my car battery died due to neglect. Lack of activity and lack of solitude routinely kept my battery from being recharged on occasion.
Lack of activity can drain the battery
Last spring after my husband began working from home, it was nice to have him around but I lost the solitude that kept me charged. He and I worked on a few projects together at home and got outside to ride our bikes together. We had fun with it. I knew that my husband would have a hard time not interacting with other people, so I tried to make sure that he didn’t feel alone.
But then we discovered hoards of people also trying to handle their new lives working from home by heading to the local multi-use trails for walks, runs, and bike rides. Seriously, the hoards of people were impossible to avoid. As a result, I ended up staying home to avoid the crowds and increased infection risk. I didn’t ride my bike for months.
Even ‘good’ activity can be draining
This winter I made a conscious decision to become more physically active. As colder weather settled in, fewer people were outside on the trails. I joined a friendly winter-cycling competition called Freezing Saddles. Although he didn’t join me, my husband was very supportive of this activity. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve felt a great sense of accomplishment getting outside on most days to ride anywhere from 5 miles to 20 miles.
But all of this physical activity on the bike takes a lot of time and a lot of energy. I’ve found that cycling can boost energy levels and drain your battery at the same time. The recovery time from each ride would consume a large portion of the day, and even days following. Sometimes too much activity isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Balancing fatigue and well-being
While cycling is good for my physical, mental, and emotional well-being, it routinely consumes much of the day with recovery time. When cycling makes me neglect other healthy sources of anti-fatigue activity, it’s time to make some choices.
Activities such as reading a book or playing an adventure game with my husband help to keep my cognitive reserves full. Listening to music and being creative with my colored pencils or acrylic paint help to fuel my spiritual well-being. Taking the time to stretch my muscles helps me stay flexible and feel physically capable.
Respect your mind and body
Respecting my body’s needs in the moment is possibly the most important skill to master when fighting fatigue. If I need a nap, I give myself permission to take a nap. If I need to gently move my joints and muscles through their full range of motion, I take the time to do so. If I need to close the computer and bring out the art supplies, puzzles, or a good book, I try to remember my own advice and take the time to enjoy myself.
These simple activities are every bit as important as staying physically active. They are important in fighting fatigue and recharging my various well-being batteries. Perhaps these activities are akin to washing my car, completing routine maintenance, and removing trash and debris from the car as well. None of these tasks change the condition of the battery, but they do help to maintain the car's tiptop shape.
What helps you to recharge your physical, mental, and emotional batteries and keep your body in tiptop shape?
Be well my friends,
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?