Feeling low in energy is a common symptom experienced by many people living with stroke, traumatic brain injury and other neurological diagnoses. Fatigue can seriously impact on your recovery goals and what you are able to do in your day-to-day life.
Fatigue can have a number of underlying causes. It may be directly related to your neurological condition, or it may be linked to other physical or emotional factors such as unsettled sleep, inactivity and loss of fitness, or low mood.
Feeling constantly tired is very common when you have a neurological illness or injury, but there are some things that you can do to help manage your energy levels.
- Keep a diary. This can help you pinpoint which activities reduce your energy levels (e.g. therapy sessions, household chores) and which activities improve your energy levels (e.g. relaxing with music, socialising). Aim to achieve a balance of both within a day. A diary can also help you work out when you have more energy, for example in the morning.
- Make a plan. Once you know how much you can do in a day, and when you feel most energised, you can plan out your day or week. Use a diary or a wall calendar to help you. Aim to spread activity evenly across the week. This might involve breaking larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps (e.g. vacuuming one or two rooms per day rather than tackling the whole house in one go).
- Stay active. Regular physical activity can help to improve your energy levels, so try to incorporate some exercise into your day, but don’t overexert yourself. You could try a short walk, a few minutes on an exercise bike or a chair-based workout. We Are Undefeatable has some great ideas to help you find activities that work for you.
- Pace yourself. It’s important to balance activities which drain your energy with activities which ‘recharge your batteries’ plus proper breaks. If you feel exhausted, then it’s okay to sit down or to take a short nap of up to 30 minutes; taking longer naps may impact on your sleep at night. This might mean you are not able to do all the things you’d like to, but over time you can build up your stamina.
- Eat a balanced diet. The food we eat can either cause our energy levels to peak and dip throughout the day, or keep our energy on a more even keel. Reducing foods high in sugar and refined (white) carbohydrates will help avoid the highs and lows of the ‘energy rollercoaster’, whereas eating a balance of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein plus some healthy fats will help to maintain steady energy levels throughout the day.
Seeking support can also help you to manage your fatigue, improve your energy and achieve your recovery goals. Talking to your family and friends can help them try and understand your situation and support you. You could also contact us for a free 15-minute telephone consultation to tell us about your energy levels and see if we can help you find a way forward.