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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Self-care for fatigue

Tāu ake whakaora i te ruha

Managing your fatigue and feeling in control so it doesn't rule your life is important. Whether your experience of fatigue is short term or long term, there are some effective steps you can take to manage it.

Here is a list of strategies that other people have found useful.

Be active

Regular physical activity can help with tiredness and boost your energy level. It may also help you sleep better.

Aim to do some activity or light exercise such as walking most days. If you feel too tired for activity, start small and build up slowly.

Too much activity might make you tired, as can too little, so it's important to find your own level. A good balance between being active and getting plenty of rest is best. A physiotherapist or occupational therapist may be able to advise you about what activity or exercise would suit you.

Have a balance of rest and activity

If rests during the day mean you achieve activity goals or get through the day better, make sure you take them.

Some people find having a midday sleep is useful. Other people find a quiet lie down in a dark room effective. Try to avoid sleeping for longer than 30 minutes during the day as this can affect the quality of your sleep at night.

Relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, calm breathing and meditation can help to recharge your batteries in a short space of time.

Balancing your daily activities according to your energy levels can sometimes let you achieve more. This involves thinking ahead and planning your day according to your energy levels. But make sure you schedule some time for fun!

Conserve your energy

Changing the way you do certain activities or changing your expectations of yourself can give you more energy for the important things in life.

Try strategies such as pacing, prioritising, planning, reorganising your environment and using tools and devices. These are all helpful ways of saving energy. See Conserving energy for more information about these ideas.

Keep to a normal sleep routine

Good-quality sleep may help with fatigue as well as reducing your need to sleep during the day. See Tips for sleeping well.

Eat well

Eating well can help you keep or regain your strength and give you more energy. If you have a mid-afternoon energy slump, make sure you have a combination of a protein-rich food and a carbohydrate-rich food for lunch such as a filled roll with cold meat, canned fish or egg. Carbohydrate provides glucose for energy. Protein helps keep your mind attentive and alert.

Try quick easy meals or ready-made meals when you're most tired.

It may help to keep a diary of what you eat, to see if you have more energy after certain meals. If you need help and support to eat well it may help to see a dietitian.

Drink at least eight cups of fluid a day. Water is best. Milk, decaffeinated coffee, fruit or herbal tea are also fine.

Alcohol can make fatigue worse. If you drink alcohol, follow national guidelines on how much to drink safely.

Avoid caffeinated drinks and sugary drinks as a pick me up. Instead, find an alternative activity or rest to replace your need for stimulants.

Look after your wellbeing

It can be common for people who experience fatigue to become depressed or anxious. Make sure you look after your wellbeing.

Talk to your whānau (family) and friends and do not be afraid to ask for help

Talking with an understanding person about your fatigue can be useful. Let people in your life know what is going on for you and give them suggestions about how they can support you, such as help with grocery shopping or looking after children.

It's okay to ask for help. More often than not, people are happy to help out.

You may find it useful to join a support group and talk with others who are experiencing fatigue. Learning from each other can be helpful.

Keep track of your daily energy levels

Keep a diary for a week or two. In your diary, record your daily energy levels using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is no fatigue and 5 is extreme fatigue. You could also note down things that might be affecting your fatigue. You can then use your diary to:

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Written by the Occupational Therapy Canterbury HealthInfo Workgroup. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2022.


Page reference: 273438

Review key: HIFAT-275459