Fatigue is more than a debilitating physical symptom. It can be incredibly distressing and demoralising – especially if you start to compare your previous energy/ activity/ productivity levels with your current levels. It can bring up issues around self-worth and self-identity, as well as activate anxiety, fear and grief.
Understanding your body battery
||One way to understand your new fatigue is through the concept of a body battery. Prior to being unwell, you may have had a physical and cognitive battery that fully charged and could run for 12-14 hours. Since being unwell, your battery ‘drains’ faster, especially through intense activities, and hence requires charging more often.
Two common patterns people fall into
There are two common patterns people with cancer often find themselves in when trying to combat fatigue. We have outlined them below. Both are ineffective and can actually increase fatigue and its impacts. Do you notice these cycles in yourself?
1. Boom and Bust Cycle
This cycle essentially involves waking up feeling quite energised and wanting to capitalise on this energy by completing a lot of activities. This results in major fatigue and a need to either rest for extended periods, or reduced ability to function for a full day.
2. Continuous Rest
This cycle is usually established over time. It starts with fatigue and/or pain which triggers rest. By resting a lot or reducing activity over time this decreases strength, so that when you are active again you notice further fatigue or pain. As a result, you become disheartened and experience intrusive thoughts which demotivate you from trying further activity.
If you recognise either of these cycles in yourself, bring them up with your clinician, as they are useful in understanding why you may be feeling more fatigued that usual.
Also, don’t panic, there are things you can do to break the cycle! Check out the tips in the following sections.