The most effective approach you can take when dealing with your fatigue is to be aware that fatigue is a part of arthritis, and that you might have to adapt your schedule. Don’t look at your fatigue as a sign of personal weakness or try to deny it. It is simply one more symptom of your arthritis that you can learn to handle.
Here are some fatigue tips that are worth trying:
Adjust your schedule as needed. Many people with arthritis adjust their daily schedules, starting their days an hour or two later. This makes it easier to deal with morning stiffness and may also enable you to sleep longer. Ultimately, the result is less fatigue and a more productive day. Other people may rest or nap in the afternoon, which then allows them to continue their daily activities without exhaustion at the end of the day.
Avoid eating heavy meals. Instead, opt for a light lunch, perhaps with a healthy morning and afternoon snack thrown in.
Get enough rest. Rest is crucial. But doing too little can often lead to deconditioning – which makes you feel more fatigued. Moderate exercise keeps your muscles and joints in condition, and has the added benefit of helping you sleep better at night.
Get a good night’s sleep. A lack of restful sleep is a problem shared by many Americans – and caused by a variety of factors: stress; depression; caffeine, alcohol or drugs; not allowing enough time for sleep; and pain. When you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or other forms of arthritis, pain may keep you from falling asleep easily, or it may awaken you during the night. Research has shown that some people with RA experience light, easily disrupted sleep with many mid-sleep awakenings. This contributes to fatigue.
There are several stages of sleep. During the night, your brain moves between these stages in cycles, and the types of electrical brain waves generated vary from stage to stage. To feel rested, your brain requires what is called “delta sleep,” named after the brain waves that occur in the third and fourth stages of sleep. REM (short for rapid eye movement) sleep is also important. It’s the stage of sleep when dreaming occurs, and without it, you will feel tired.
Prioritize your time and energy. There may be times when you feel more fatigued than others, and you will have to deal with limitations to your energy. Think of your energy as a resource that you have to conserve for your most important activities. This may involve saying no to lower-priority activities that take up too much of your energy.
Of course, saying no isn’t always easy, but it helps you stay focused on the priorities in your life, such as earning a living or spending time with your children. When you’re feeling fatigued, opting out of an activity may allow you to get the rest you need. Saying no to one activity may allow you to say yes to something more important to you.
Ask for help. Successful managers know that they cannot do everything themselves. Borrowing from their techniques, you can learn to delegate tasks that will help you manage your activities. Asking for help may be difficult at first. Because the effects of RA are not always visible, you may be afraid that co-workers and acquaintances will perceive you as lazy.
You may feel embarrassed to ask for help, especially if you’ve always viewed yourself as a high achiever. When asking for help, be specific. For example, if you ask someone to take you shopping for one hour every other Tuesday morning, you are letting them know precisely what you need. Also, you show that you understand his or her time is valuable.
Also, develop a pool of helpers. Spreading out the tasks keeps the burden from falling on any one person. Keep a list of friends and family and the tasks they’re willing to help with.
Consider bartering or trading services. If you dislike asking for help, perhaps you can provide a service in return. For instance, offer to watch your friend’s children one afternoon a week at your house, if she will run some errands for you.