Helping women with chronic illnesses

Exhaustion: Five Tips For Coping

What happens when you were already tired to start… truly exhausted… and then a crisis situation of some sort (or multiple crises) crops up – resulting in you expending energy you didn’t even know or think you had and leading to a more profound state of exhaustion that makes day-to-day functioning quite challenging?

What do you do if you’re so drained that basic daily functions are quite challenging? What do you do if you’re in so much pain that it’s difficult to think and you’re too exhausted to think straight about how to best deal with that pain (i.e. when some of your normal coping strategies start going out the window because you’re too tired to organize your thoughts)? What do you do if you’re so drained that you can’t keep up basic correspondence (i.e. letting people know that you’re OK)? What if you are experiencing stress that drains you emotionally and adds to the physical exhaustion? While it might seem like common sense for anyone who feels utterly exhausted to “simply” back off on some of their activities to avoid burnout, this can be easier said than done sometimes. There are times this requires tough choices to be made.

Five tips for coping with exhaustion:

  • This first one is obvious, I know. However, it’s also neglected too often by many people. (I am guilty as charged on this one plenty of times). Our fast-paced society can make it difficult for us to listen to our bodies and do what we need to do to be as healthy as possible. The first tip is to rest as much as you possibly can. Be honest with yourself about how much time you truly have available for rest. It may be more than you initially think! (Some of the “mandatory” activities may truly be optional). Learn how to say no to the optional stuff.

  • To expand on that last point, it’s worth taking time to prioritize and eliminate/delay things that need to wait until later or may not really need to be done at all. You only get one body. Taking care of it must come first – or everything else can fall by the wayside when a total crash or burnout occurs.

  • Give yourself permission to skip things. This can include skipping things you love or miss. Skipping things on a temporary basis to get the rest you need to cope with everything you have on your plate is rarely easy to do but it is important for preventing exacerbation of your symptoms or even introduction of new ones. The hardest things to skip are often interacting with the people we care about. The way I see it is that I have worked hard to explain where I’m at to people and those who understand my situation (some to a greater or lesser degree) will understand that I am not ignoring them, being rude, forgetting about them, etc. They will understand if I need to focus my energy on rest and healing during times that are more challenging. I have to get past any feelings of guilt to enable myself to do what’s best for my body.

  • See if there are any ways you can simplify daily tasks. Is there an easier way to do the same task (something that you’ve never tried before?) Is there someone who might be able to help you with certain tasks?

  • Make peace with the fact that you can’t do everything you wish to do when you wish to do it. Give yourself permission to stagger things out. Allow yourself to work through anger and frustration while also moving ahead and accepting that the odds are on your side for things getting better over time. (Crises don’t last forever… even if they seem to when we’re in them)! Accept the fact that you are doing the best you can in your unique situation. (Remember that everyone’s situation is unique. No two people are exactly alike). Whether one has a chronic illness or is perfectly healthy, time management is an issue that impacts everyone. The trick for people living with chronic illness (especially when dealing with some sort of acute crisis or crises) is that time management becomes that much more difficult.

    In the end, all any of us can do is our best. We aren’t likely to please all of the people, all of the time. Accepting this fact can be helpful… especially in those extra-busy and/or extra-stressful times. Weeding out one’s “best” from one’s “best if one were healthy which one is not” is key. Your “best” 20 years ago and your “best” now may differ wildly. That’s alright. It is what it is. Above all, it is imperative to prevent burnout. That’s not to say that it’s never a good idea to test the waters and push the boundaries a bit. What I have found is that the key for testing the waters is to closely monitor how symptoms are affected by increased/different activity. Being prepared to back off when symptoms do get exacerbated is very important.

    Now, if only I could consistently implement these tips myself… I might feel better! (I’m working on it). As anyone I normally interact with online (including on this blog) can tell you, I have backed off immensely in my online activities. Unfortunately, when I did so it was not to take a break or a vacation. It was to replace that time spent with (crisis-related) activities that were more draining and stressful. So, it will take me some time to resume anything resembling a “normal” schedule… but I intend to work on it. In the meantime, I won’t be able to catch up on messages anytime soon. So, please know that you are in my thoughts even if this is the only place you hear from me for awhile. Thank you for your patience.

    This post was written by Jeanne at Copyright © Jeanne — All rights reserved.

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    Reading: Exhaustion: Five Tips For Coping

    1 SandNo Gravatar { 04.25.12 at 3:22 pm }

    Oh I hear you 🙁 seems like we have too much in common…I know what I should be doing but boy I’m so rubbish at pacing…
    Heh – and my inbox scares me :p
    Good luck with following your own advice. And thanks, I needed to read this today.
    PS – don’t worry about replying 😉

    2 JeanneNo Gravatar { 04.26.12 at 2:26 pm }

    Welcome Sand!

    Pacing can be so tricky! My inbox is a frightening thing. Thank you for stopping by. It’s very nice to meet you! 😉


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