Of all the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, fatigue is possibly the most frustrating and debilitating. Like sandbags tied around your waist, fatigue constantly pulls you down. Every day is a push.
And at the end of each long and exhausting day, sleep is yet another challenge. Oddly, the more exhausted a person with fibromyalgia becomes during the day, the worse sleep is at night. After a restless night of tossing and turning, the cycle begins again at dawn.
Fatigue is the most universal symptom linking chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and autoimmune diseases. It’s an indication that all functions in the body have been disrupted, down to the cellular level. While human nature pushes us to find a way to “fix” the fatigue, the only real “fix” is addressing the underlying causes and restoring the body back to normal health.
Getting back to normal health requires undoing all the things that contributed to the problem in the first place. This is more of a process than a fix, but as the healing systems of the body are activated and health is regained, fatigue will gradually dissipate.
Here are a few things that you can do to get started.
1. Cut back on caffeine.
If you push down hard on the accelerator of a car with a bad carburetor while going up a hill, the engine is going to stall. For a person with fibromyalgia, caffeine is like pushing hard on the accelerator. Instead of giving you a lift, it may cause your engine to sputter and stall. Be careful about taking caffeine or other stimulants for “fixing” fatigue.
2. Try to relax.
The stress hormone adrenaline, historically, prepared your body for escaping a tiger. Right now it’s best to keep as much distance between you and the tiger as possible. Start by filtering news and information; if there’s not something you can personally change, it’s not your concern. Make your world as small and uncomplicated as possible by reducing your everyday needs. Learn and practice relaxation techniques whenever you can.
3. Generate endorphins through gentle movement.
Endorphins are the “feel good” chemicals induced by exercise. Of course, if you don’t feel like getting off the couch, it’s hard to move enough to generate endorphins — a real catch 22. Gentle, persistent exercise is the answer. The ancient Chinese practice of Qigong (tai chi is a form of Qigong) is a great example. Going to a class is one way to learn Qigong, but the simple gentle movements can also be learned from a book or DVD. Yoga is another great option for generating endorphins and getting your body moving again.
4. Try to develop good sleep habits.
Body maintenance and repair occur most intensely during deep sleep. Fatigue is often the direct result of not sleeping well at night. The best formula for a good night’s sleep is a calm relaxing day. Practice keeping your adrenaline levels down during the day with relaxed breathing and gentle exercise. Follow good bedtime practices (like turning off electronics and not eating too close to bedtime) to ease into sleep gently.
Boost the immune system with fresh fruits and vegetables. By supporting the healing systems of the body with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, you will support your body’s immune system and be on your way to restoring normal energy levels.
5. Embrace herbal therapy instead of drug therapy.
If you are taking any type of drug therapy, be aware that it may actually be contributing to fatigue. Natural herbal therapy is the best approach for overcoming fatigue. Herbs can help relieve the symptom of fatigue directly by enhancing immune function, balancing hormones, and stimulating the healing systems of the body. A selection of herbs for enhancing healing is a key part of restoring energy levels.