For those with chronic illnesses (i.e. a long term health condition), chronic fatigue is extremely common. The terms fatigue and tiredness have often been used interchangeably but there is a difference.
What is the difference between tiredness and fatigue?
Tiredness, as we all know, tends to happen after a busy day or when someone hasn’t had enough sleep. Fatigue is experienced when a person is tired every day, with no relief after having had some sleep. Someone with chronic fatigue may be exhausted after having got out of bed to have a shower. It’s felt in the whole body; complete exhaustion that does not go away by simply sleeping or resting.
While this may be frustrating to the friends and family of someone with chronic fatigue, it is important to remember that this does not mean that they are lazy and it is not their fault. It’s a result of their body dealing with the daily struggle of having a long-term health condition. Consequently they can suffer constant tiredness as the body tries to keep itself as healthy as it can.
Another difficulty for those with chronic fatigue is a term called ‘brain fog’ - a type of cognitive dysfunction where the person does not have the mental energy to think clearly (as if they’re ‘stuck in a fog’).
When the energy to do even, what might seem, the simplest of daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, bathing or brushing your teeth is limited, people with chronic fatigue can really struggle to keep up with everything. This can affect their mental health, leaving them feeling anxious, lonely and guilty.
12 ways to help someone with chronic fatigue
There are a variety of things that someone can do to support those with chronic fatigue, not only helping them with daily tasks but also their emotional wellbeing:
- Be understanding: It is important not to judge them as they’re not being ‘lazy’, it’s only that their body is not capable of functioning to its full extent at that particular time.
- Be patient with them: It’s the condition causing it and it’s not their fault.
- Allow them to rest and sleep when they need to: As well as letting them be alone when needed, they also need downtime without feeling guilty.
- Still include them with social occasions: Go round to their house, offer lifts as public transport can itself be tiring and be flexible with arrangements.
- Don’t be mad at them for cancelling plans: That means: no guilt tripping.
- Allow them to recharge: Bear in mind that it can take a while for them to regain their energy - especially after a busy day or a social occasion. Whereas others can have a good night’s sleep and be ready to go the next day, it can often take them a lot longer to feel fully re-energised.
- Don’t tell them that they ‘just need to sleep more’: As previously mentioned, sleep on its own isn’t the answer. Neither does it help to be told that they look tired or to make jokes about being exhausted.
- Cook or order meals for them: Having the energy even to cook something simple can be too much. Also remind them that they need to eat to help keep up their energy levels, as they might forget from time to time.
- Help out around the house: Having a messy or cluttered house can cause stress and anxiety so helping with everyday jobs such as doing the dishes, cleaning or laundry can make a huge difference.
- Go grocery shopping for or with them: Just by keeping someone company can really help and support them - it may also make it less stressful for them as well. If they have no energy to go to the shops but need some essentials, your help would mean the world to them.
- Buy them comfy clothes, blankets and heat pads: Apart from being comforting, they will love these as presents! It will definitely be appreciated.
- Spend time with them: From watching films and chatting or even just being with them. Reassure them that you still care about and love them. Make sure that they know that they are not a burden.
Everyone’s needs are different so communication is important. As long as they know that they have your understanding and support then that makes the world of difference; it’s very easy to feel like a burden or a nuisance so it’s good to reassure them that they’re not!
When it comes to supporting someone with chronic fatigue, it’s often the little things that make a big difference.
Natural wellbeing support with Alexandra Kay
Every sale of products from the Alexandra Kay wellbeing range raises money for the Ehlers-Danlos Society, a condition that causes many to suffer chronic fatigue.
If you would like to talk to us about the Alexandra Kay range, our friendly UK customer care team is available on 01403 740350.
This article was written by Charlotte Twinley.