By Annaben Kazemi
Living with a chronic illness is not easy for either patients or their caregivers. As a busy mom, my days are already pretty full and hectic, but the days can feel especially long when I’m caring for my sick child whose unrelenting chronic illness is flaring up. Being up all night when she’s sick and then pulling a long day with her at the clinic can take its toll. There are days when both of us wish we could crawl back into bed!
It’s tough not being able to rest when I want to or need to, but taking a moment to take care of myself can give me the energy I need to temporarily keep going. Yet, while a good respite works wonders, it’s not always feasible. So over time, I’ve come up with some techniques that help me push through the tiredness.
While not every one of these suggestions works every time, using a combination to fight the fatigue has worked wonders for me:
- Taking a deep breath
Deep breathing helps in the delivery of oxygen to our body’s cells, carries nutrients in the blood stream, and takes away toxins via the lymphatic system. Science has shown that proper breathing helps the body detoxify and become less susceptible to fatigue. Taking just a few slow deep breaths will automatically make me feel better and more awake.
- Drinking water
One of the reasons I get tired when I’m busy is that I forget to drink water. Dehydration reduces the blood volume that creates fatigue. Juice, soft drinks and even energy drinks are full of sugars that actually cause dehydration. Water hydrates best, so I keep a bottle near and make it a habit of drinking a little whenever I feel tired. I am surprised how quickly just drinking water can get rid of my lethargy.
- Get moving
Sometimes fatigue is caused by inertia, especially when sitting in a clinic or hospital all day. But if I get up and move, I feel more awake. Movement of any type creates an increased blood flow that in turn increases energy and fights fatigue. All I have to do is get up, stretch a little bit and walk around. I try to do this at least every hour so that I break the pattern of sluggishness.
- Listening to music
Music can help trick my mind into feeling less fatigue. It distracts me so that I’m not concentrating on my energy or exertion level, but just enjoying the music. This distraction is also helpful in preventing boredom when mundane tasks are required, like sitting in a waiting room. I just pull out my headphones, plug in my iPod/MP3 player and start listening to my favorite upbeat playlist. Soon I am distracted from my fatigue.
Laughter has a lot of benefits, such as releasing higher levels of endorphins, which makes me feel better. This gets rid of any feelings of being tired. As a matter of fact, recent studies have shown that even the anticipation of laughter increases endorphin levels. I don’t even have to laugh out loud; simply finding something amusing is beneficial. Sometimes, I start reading some jokes online or watch some funny videos on YouTube. And I notice that once I start laughing, I’m not as tired.
Using any and sometimes even all of these techniques has helped me to feel more awake and more energized until I can get the real rest I need. When I take the time to refresh, I am better able to manage the challenges that come with having a sick family member.
If you are having one of those days were you are just tired but have to keep going, try using one or more of these techniques. They have worked for me. What works for you?