A person's silhouette shows a car battery inside their head. There are clamps reaching out looking for a recharge.

MS Fatigue: Feeling Neglected Like an Old Car Battery (Part 1)

Fatigue can be a relentless beast. A beast that easily gets hungry and consumes all the energy you can drudge up. When it’s particularly ravenous, it can drain you dry.

Neglect can drain you just as easily as fatigue. The saying “use it or lose it” seems to ring true in many aspects of life.

A year of barely leaving the house

During this past year of isolation and social distancing, there is has been little reason to go many places beyond the pharmacy, grocery store, and doctors’ offices. My need to drive places wasn’t great before, but it became almost non-existent since the pandemic hit.

As a result, my car suffered. I remember the first time my car didn’t start when I was ready to go someplace. Crap!! My car battery was dead for lack of use. After jump-starting it, my short errand turned into a very long car ride on the highway to nowhere in particular. Fortunately, this worked to get my car battery back up to speed and ready for the next trip when I needed it.

Wishing I could jump-start my internal battery

Too bad our internal batteries can’t be “jump-started” when we feel completely drained and totally fatigued. A cup of coffee is helpful, but it’s akin to going outside to simply start the car and let it run while parked in the driveway. It helps somewhat, but doesn’t make up for lack of real activity.

We need to stay active

Our bodies need to be active to stay in condition. Physical activity helps to keep our muscles stronger, to reinforce balance and coordination, and to maintain better communication between the brain and the body. Physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous; it can be as simple as shifting balance from side to side or extending your limbs to their full range of motion on a regular basis.

Deconditioning is akin to allowing the car battery to die. Your body needs to be “driven around” on occasion to stay more reliable.

Both mind and body

Our minds need to stay active as well. With extra time at home this past year, I thought that I would get a lot of extra reading and puzzle time in. Instead, I pulled out the sewing machine and taught myself how to make quilts which my cat really enjoys. As a result, I have to admit that it’s sometimes been harder to keep track of things in my head. It could be that my ability to stay organized was supported by those puzzles I skipped.

Vicious cycle: energy - activity - fatigue - crash - recharge

Overdoing it when we do feel energized

For me, when I feel a lot of energy, I tend to overdo it. It feels so good to be active. But then I’ll drain the body’s battery and crash for an undetermined amount of time. When fully recharged, I tend to do the same thing over again. It can become a vicious cycle.

Solitude helps me recharge

During the past year, I’ve observed my own behavior with curious interest while dealing with isolation and social distancing during various stages of the pandemic. At first, things didn’t seem THAT much different than normal, other than obsessively washing my hands and bringing out the sewing machine. I work from home already so I’m used to not being around other people. In fact, I find that being around other people for lengthy periods of time also drains my physical, mental, and spiritual battery.

How riding my bike has helped me

One thing I found that helped me to manage each type of fatigue during the past year has been to ride my bike. Cycling is a great cardiovascular exercise, helping the brain and the body. Cycling also provided me the solitude I desired and allowed me to be refreshed and ready to spend time with my husband at home.

In Part 2, I discuss ways to combat fatigue and how to care for your body in the process.

What tends to drain your physical, mental, and emotional batteries?

Be well my friends,

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