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Conserving Energy with MS

By Matt Cavallo

Nearly 80 percent of the people living with MS experience fatigue. Fatigue is an overwhelming sense of tiredness that can be debilitating to those of us with MS. For me personally, fatigue is the most difficult symptom to convey to my family and friends because it is an invisible symptom.

To some, it may appear that I don’t want to hang out or participate in activities that involve crowds or waiting in lines. In reality, I am just so overwhelmingly tired – physically and mentally – that it makes it difficult to participate in activities. While I may appear lazy, the truth is that my fatigue is like having an anchor tying me down to the chair. Sometime that anchor is so heavy that it makes it seem impossible to accomplish basic tasks like eating, drinking, or bathroom breaks, let alone trying to engage in an activity.

If you are losing the battle to MS fatigue, here are some tips to conserve your energy so that you can participate in activities you’ve been avoiding:

Maximize your best time of the day. Most of us living with MS have a best time of the day. For me it is the morning. I find that I have the most amount of energy in the morning and that I hit a wall early afternoon. Knowing that my best time of the day is the morning, I try to ensure that I do the following:
  • Exercise – while you are at peak energy, try to get in some form of exercise. While you may think this would lead to increased fatigue and decreased energy, exercising actually has the opposite effect.
  • Chores – if you have a list of house work, or other work, try to accomplish this during you peak energy time. If you put off the things that you need to get done, your list will start to contribute to that overwhelming tired feeling. If you are able to accomplish items on your list, then you will feel as sense of accomplishment and the energy that comes with it.
  • Activities – if people want to see you or engage you in some activity, try to schedule these activities during your best time of day. Explain to the person that you function better during this time because of your MS and they will be accommodating.

Get on a Sleep Schedule. Many people living with MS have some sort of sleep disorder. Fatigue and overall lack of energy can be attributed in part to lack of or disrupted sleep patterns. Having a consistent sleep schedule can help you establish your best time of day, as well as, reduce the fatigue associated with interrupted sleep.

Watch what you put in your body. Whether it is your prescribed medications, diet, drugs or alcohol, all of these items can be risks for decreasing your energy. Please consult a doctor if you have any questions about these items.
  • Check the side effects on any medications that you take to see if they cause fatigue.
  • Drugs and alcohol can affect your sleep schedule, energy and fatigue level, as well as, pose other serious health risks.
  • Your diet can be a key contributor to energy levels. While sugars and caffeine can give you an initial spike in energy, the crash can leave you more fatigued than before.

Keep cool. There is a correlation between heat and increased fatigue. The heat can also drain your energy making you withdraw from your daily activities. During the hot times of year, staying in air conditioned spaces is recommended. If you must go outside, make sure to take plenty of water, and wear cooling devices such as: cooling vests, bandanas and hats. You can also contact MSFocus: The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation Cooling Program to learn more about how the MS Foundation can help.

Recharge. When I hit the wall in the afternoon, I try to take some time to recharge my energy. Whether that is taking a nap or finding some quiet time away from technology or the phone, finding an hour in the afternoon to recharge creates energy reserves that I can draw upon if I need to do something outside of my best time of the day.

Nearly 80 percent of the people living with MS have a problem with fatigue. Conserving your energy can be a way to manage your fatigue. Maximizing your best time of day, sticking to a sleep schedule, watching what you put in your body, staying cool and taking time to recharge are all tips to help you conserve your energy, so that you can get back out there and participate in the activities with your family and friends despite the devastating effects of MS fatigue.