Tips to Fight Lupus Fatigue
Last updated: July 2021
For many people living with lupus, fatigue is the most common symptom experienced. Whether it’s a persistent lack of energy, a sense of physical and mental lethargy, or all-over exhaustion, fatigue comes in many forms. While you may never be as energetic as you were before your diagnosis, there are ways to manage fatigue and still live a full and productive life. Here are some tips and tricks I've learned from managing my own fatigue:
Lupus fatigue tips
I stay hydrated
Drinking water consistently throughout the day staves off dehydration. Dehydration can intensify lupus fatigue. While I tend to crave sugar when I'm tired, reaching for a glass of water instead of a soft drink will leave me feeling better for longer. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks will also help avoid the energy crash that follows consuming excess sugar. In addition to improving fatigue, the CDC claims that water helps cushion the joints, reducing joint pain.1 I carry a water bottle with me that I can refill throughout the day.
I take vitamins
When fatigue is caused by vitamin deficiencies, I've found that taking a multivitamin each day can help. Gummy or liquid vitamins are often better absorbed by the body than pills. Research shows that low levels of B12 especially contribute to fatigue. Some doctors prescribe B12 injections to help return B12 to normal levels. Consult your doctor before deciding if this is right for you.
I take short breaks throughout the day
Like many people living with lupus, I struggled to adjust to the new limits my body placed on me when I first become ill. Tasks that once seemed easy, like working a full day or going for a walk, can now send me to bed for the rest of the day. Rather than pushing my body until I'm forced to rest, I take short breaks throughout the day even if I don’t yet feel tired. Taking a moment every few hours to sit down and relax can prevent a crash, ultimately helping me to accomplish more.
I exercise, but I don't overdo it
Light exercise is my secret weapon when it comes to beating fatigue. While exercise might be the last thing I feel like doing when I'm tired, if done gently and correctly, it can give me an energy boost that lasts the whole day. Pilates, yoga, and light weight-lifting either at home or with a trainer who works with chronically ill patients has reduced my tiredness. However, I'm careful not to push myself too hard physically, as this can result in a day stuck in bed after. Exercise is not for every person with lupus. Speak to your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.
I schedule a day off after high-energy activities
I've found that I don’t always feel tired right after participating in a high-energy activity, but that I can barely get out of bed the next day. Lupus fatigue can be sneaky! When I know I have a high-energy event planned, I schedule a day of rest after. I watch Netflix or reach for a novel, then order delivery for dinner the day after. I've learned that pushing myself the day after a high-energy event will only worsen and prolong my fatigue.
I improve my quality of sleep
My fatigue is intensified by insomnia, which I experience as part of my lupus. If going to bed at the same time each night doesn't fix the problem, I take melatonin and other over-the-counter sleep aids. I've also needed prescription sleep medication from my doctor. Be sure to consult your doctor before trying any sleep aids.
I identify the time of the day that I'm most tired, then I avoid it
Like many people living with lupus, I find that my fatigue is worse at certain times of the day. I always feel exhausted in the morning, while some friends with lupus feel more tired at the end of the day. I arrange my schedule so that I can sleep or rest during the most difficult part of the day. I've learned not to feel guilty about sleeping in as much as possible.
I watch for a change in the amount of fatigue I experience
For me, an increase in fatigue can signal the start of a flare. I am careful to rest more and contact my doctor if I experience this.
By talking about your symptoms with your doctor and listening to your body so you develop your own tricks, you'll get the most out of each day while staying healthy and productive. Lupus fatigue may never be fully eradicated, but it can be outsmarted.
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