(Plus 10 More Bonus Tips!)
Energy is so hard to come by, sometimes. Fatigue is the almost always present, yet much less discussed, relative of chronic illnesses across the board. It is a hugely common problem, even for many who have reached that prized place of remission. And doctors don’t really seem to have any idea how to treat it, except some super strong pills with vicious side effects in extreme cases.
So, it pays to have some energy-boosting tricks and cheats up your sleeve for when you inevitably need them. With that in mind, I took to Facebook and Twitter support groups to ask members how they combat fatigue and find their energy again. Below is a list of the most popular answers given, along with a few of my own ideas. Some are long term strategies, some are quick fixes for when you really need some energy NOW (!), and one or two are there to make you laugh! Whatever it is you need right now, I hope this helps. <3
Exercise was the No. 1 energy booster named among respondents. This may be easier or harder depending on how active your illness is at the moment, but even the most simple movement like gentle stretches or walking up and down the hallway a few times can make a real difference. If you are feeling abler, you could try weight lifting and jogging – just don’t go too hard, as this can actually drain your energy. An effort rating of 40-80% is best for boosting energy. Here is what a few respondents said:
“Since being diagnosed a year ago I found that a regimen of constant exercise has been my savior. It gives me energy and yet peace! I do it out of my own home.” – Bobbie-Jo.
“I started exercising in November, I do three rounds of leg-arm exercises. When I started out I was at 6 minutes for leg and 3 min for arm. Now I am at 10 and 5. Walk, lift weights, exercise bike, rowing machine. It is important to stretch first and after you are done.” – Rachel.
I work full time […] I also do yoga, run and lift weights. The doctor told me to keep moving, so I do as much as possible.” – Colleen
Best advice I ever got was to walk/exercise by time not distance. For example […] set your timer and walk for say 3 minutes then turn around and walk back. This way you don’t overdo it trying to get a certain distance.”Sarah
“Dancing, swimming, pilates, walking and keep moving. But don’t overdo it.” – Karen
“stretching, yoga and meditation. Plenty of sleep also.” – Teresa
This last one leads us onto the next most commonly cited energy booster – plenty of good quality sleep. This sounds obvious but is easier said than done. You may want to put some time into figuring out exactly how much sleep is best for you and making your bedroom as conducive to rest as possible. Here are some of the responses I got that talk about sleep:
“Sleep has been a HUGE factor for me. If I don’t get enough sleep I’m terrible the next day. Sometimes that means saying no to plans if I’m already run down. Need to make myself and my health a priority.” – Jenn
“Actively manage my sleep schedule. A lot of people don’t and it really plays a big role especially when it is already disturbed by night time bathroom visits and pain.”Lauren
“ 1st thing is sleep, quality sleep. It took me a while before I found meds that would help.” – Brigette
“Sleep routine is really important. Exercise, vegan diet and 1 coffee in the morning.” – Jane
You also need to make self-care a priority. Self-care should be a priority for everyone, but our bodies are often especially fragile (and our minds can be too, after so much stress) so we need to put in the extra effort to take care of ourselves and reap the rewards in the long term. Here’s what people had to say:
“Someone else said self-care and I totally want to reiterate that. Self-care is different for each person but the important thing is to make sure you prioritize yourself for self-care and not feel guilty about it.” – Ashley
“Self care is so important. ‘You can’t pour water from an empty pitcher’. Insist on rest when you can. Don’t always try to take of others or do more than you should at work or home. (Now I just need to take that advice myself!).”Theresa
#4 Listen To Your Body
Linked to self-care is listening to your body. Pushing yourself as hard as you may have in the past could have much worse consequences with chronic illness, even landing you in hospital, and at the very least draining your energy for days afterward. Try to listen to what your body needs in order to maximize your natural energy reserves.
“Truly listening and respecting my body. Rest (or sleep) when needed. Plan the day based on how my body feels. Overdoing it will put me in bed for 2 or 3 days so on good energy days do more. Getting outside and walking for a few minutes every day…even in bad weather…B12 injections.” – Laura
“Learning that I need to ask for help. Realizing that I have limits. Remembering to pace myself.” – Catherine
“Listen to your body. If you need a nap, take one. That has helped me a lot. At work, I will take naps on my lunch break in my car if I need it. That was the biggest thing for me to learn with dealing with my illness.”Becca
“Low impact exercises (YouTube videos), walking, swimming. Supplements (magnesium malate, turmeric, Vit D3, nascent iodine, apple cider vinegar, etc.). Most importantly listening to my body and understanding my limits, trying to find a balance between mind and body. And coffee, lots of coffee 😅.” – Julie
#5 Stay Hydrated
Also mentioned repeatedly was staying hydrated. Current estimates say our bodies are 60% or more water (Citation) are water is involved in almost every bodily function, so it’s pretty important! Being even slightly dehydrated can lead to decreased energy and concentration (check out Web MD). With Inflammatory bowel diseases, there can also be problems with water absorption so keeping an eye on your hydration level is extra important. Here are a couple of comments I received:
“Daily mild exercises, staying on top of vitamin D level, staying hydrated” – C.O
“Getting at least 2 liters of water a day makes a difference in my energy. I can feel myself getting tired when I haven’t drunk any for a while”Vicky
“Exercise and drink lots of water.” – Bethany
Here are a few more suggestions for you to consider:
Get a good dry shampoo – showers can be really draining!
Setting boundaries around what you can and can’t do (and sticking to them) can be really helpful.
Socializing (when you are up to it) has been shown to be a long term energy booster.
Inviting friends to socialize at your home can be less tiring than going out and all the things that entails.
Cutting down on sugar and caffeine means you are less likely to suffer the energy crashes that come after having large amounts. This is a lot easier said than done though, I know!
Pacing yourself is vital.
Vitamin or mineral supplements are helpful if you have any deficiencies. You can get blood tests to check your levels. Vitamins that chronically ill people are often low on are iron, vitamin D, and B12.
Electrolyte drinks can help if you struggle to stay hydrated. Just try and find one without a ton of added sugar.
Be kind to yourself.
Meditation can boost mental energy if you make it a regular practice. Even just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference. For more info on how meditation can improve wellbeing go here: Positive Psychology
Time outdoors can be a huge factor in increasing your energy by exposing you to sunshine, fresh air, and vitamin D. Research also suggests that being in a green space (whether a city park or a national forest) has a hugely beneficial impact on stress levels. Check back in the coming weeks for my post all about the effects of time outdoors on chronic illness.
I’d love to know what tips and tricks you guys use to boost energy – please share in the comments <3