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Cancer Health Center

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Cancer-Related Fatigue

What Can I Do to Combat Fatigue?

The best way to combat fatigue is to treat the underlying medical cause. Unfortunately, the exact cause often is unknown or there may be multiple causes.

There are some medical treatments that may help improve fatigue caused by hypothyroidism or anemia. Other causes of fatigue must be managed on an individual basis.

The following are tips you can use to combat fatigue.

  • Evaluate your energy level. Think of your personal energy stores as a "bank." Deposits and withdrawals have to be made over the course of the day or the week to balance energy conservation, restoration and expenditure. Keep a diary for one week to identify the time of day when you are either most fatigued or have the most energy. Note what you think may be contributing factors.
  • Be alert to the warning signs of fatigue. Fatigue warning signs may include tired eyes, tired legs, whole-body tiredness, stiff shoulders, decreased energy or a lack of energy, inability to concentrate, weakness or malaise, boredom or lack of motivation, sleepiness, increased irritability, nervousness, anxiety, or impatience.
  • Plan ahead and organize your work.
  • Change storage of items to reduce trips or reaching.
  • Delegate tasks when needed.
  • Combine activities and simplify details.
  • Schedule times to rest. Balance periods of rest and work. Rest before you become fatigued. Remember that frequent, short rests are beneficial.
  • Pace yourself. A moderate pace is better than rushing through activities.
  • Alternate sitting and standing.
  • Practice proper body mechanics. Alternate sitting with standing. When sitting, use a chair with good back support and sit up straight. Try to work without bending over. When bending to lift something, bend your knees and use your leg muscles, not your back, to lift. 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 and delegate activities. Limit work that increases muscle tension (isometric work).
  • Breathe evenly. Do not hold your breath.
  • Wear comfortable clothes to allow for free and easy breathing.
  • Identify things in your environment that may cause fatigue. Avoid extremes of temperature. Eliminate smoke or harmful fumes. Avoid long, hot showers or baths.
  • Prioritize your activities. Decide which activities are important to you, and what could be delegated. Use your energy on important tasks.

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