Fatigue is the most common debilitating symptom that is experienced in Long Covid. It is often described as an overwhelming sense of tiredness which can be physical and mental.
Fatigue stops people from returning to work, cooking/ planning a meal, holding, and understanding, a conversation and carrying out leisure or family activities.
Some people find that when they are fatigued their body feels overwhelmingly heavy and that moving at all takes an enormous amount of energy.
It may be that specific muscles such as those in your hands and legs fatigue very easily and this can depend on the activity that you are doing e.g., writing, walking.
The fatigue people are experiencing with Long Covid leaves them exhausted after completing the most basic of tasks, and some people wake up feeling as tired as they did when they went to sleep.
Fatigue affects people in different ways, and it may change from week to week, day to day or hour to hour. It may also mean people have little motivation to do anything because they are so tired and/or know that undertaking the smallest task will leave them exhausted. This can make it difficult to explain to family/friends/colleagues.
Helping others to understand your fatigue and how it impacts on you can make a big difference to how you cope with and manage your fatigue.
A lack of sleep, or poor sleep quality, can make fatigue worse.
Sleep can be adversely affected by several things:
- Needing the toilet
- Spending more time than usual inside
- Too much caffeine
- Temperature (18 degrees is the best temp for good sleep)
- Mood (anxiety/depression)
- PTSD and flashbacks
When thinking about your sleep and the effect it is likely to be having on fatigue it is important to consider each of these issues and make any necessary changes to the environment or your routine to minimise the impact.
Pacing and recovery: The 3Ps = Pace, Prioritise, and Plan
When recovering from any serious illness most people will experience ups and downs with their symptoms for a variety of reasons.
People tend to use these symptoms to decide how much they do. So on ‘good days’ they may try to do more, often trying to ‘catch up’ and very often overdoing it. This can result in experiencing a bad day and some people describe this as a ‘relapse’ when they might experience more symptoms and feel low and then are able to do very little.
It is important to remember that all activity takes energy, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional.
You might have noticed that when you ‘overdo’ things, your symptoms are worse, and you need to rest more. Resting decreases the symptom and you are tempted to be active again. This is called the ‘boom and bust pattern’ and is detrimental to your recovery.