Coping With Cancer-Related Fatigue
Conserving Energy to Fight Fatigue
There are several ways to combat fatigue by conserving your energy. Here are some suggestions:
Plan ahead and organize your work
- Change storage of items to reduce trips or reaching.
- Delegate tasks when needed.
- Combine activities and simplify details.
- Balance periods of rest and work.
- Rest before you become fatigued -- frequent, short rests are beneficial.
- A moderate pace is better than rushing through activities.
- Reduce sudden or prolonged strains.
- Alternate sitting and standing.
Practice proper body mechanics
- When sitting, use a chair with good back support. Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back.
- Adjust the level of your work -- work without bending over.
- When bending to lift something, bend your knees and use your leg muscles to lift, not your back. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
- Carry several small loads instead of one large one, or use a cart.
Limit work that requires reaching over your head
- Use long-handled tools.
- Store items lower.
- Delegate activities when possible.
Limit work that increases muscle tension
- Breathe evenly; do not hold your breath.
- Wear comfortable clothes to allow for free and easy breathing.
Identify effects of your environment
- Avoid temperature extremes.
- Eliminate smoke or harmful fumes.
- Avoid long, hot showers or baths.
Prioritize your activities
- Decide what activities are important to you, and what could be delegated.
- Use your energy on important tasks.
How Does Nutrition Affect Energy Level?
Cancer-related fatigue is often made worse if you are not eating or drinking enough or if you are not eating the right foods. Maintaining good nutrition can help you feel better and have more energy. Make an appointment with a dietitian. A registered dietitian provides suggestions to work around any eating problems that may be interfering with proper nutrition (such as early feeling of fullness, swallowing difficulty, or taste changes). A dietitian can also suggest ways to maximize calories and include proteins in smaller amounts of food (such as powdered milk, instant breakfast drinks, and other commercial supplements or food additives).
How Does Exercise Impact Energy Level?
Decreased physical activity, which may be the result of cancer or treatment, can contribute to tiredness and lack of energy. Scientists have found that even healthy athletes forced to spend extended periods in bed or sitting in chairs develop feelings of anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
Regular, moderate exercise can decrease these feelings, help you stay active and increase your energy. Even during cancer therapy, it is often possible to continue exercising. In fact, research has shown that cancer patients who perform a moderate exercise routine have a better quality of life and may have better outcomes.
Here are some exercise guidelines to keep in mind if you have cancer:
- Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
- A good exercise program starts slowly, allowing your body time to adjust.
- Keep a regular exercise schedule.
- The right kind of exercise never makes you feel sore, stiff, or exhausted. If you experience soreness, stiffness, exhaustion, or feel out of breath as a result of your exercise, you are overdoing it.
- Most exercises are safe, as long as you exercise with caution and don't overdo it. Among the safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified instructor). These activities carry little risk of injury and benefit your entire body.