Is the feeling of extreme tiredness all too familiar? If you suffer from endometriosis, you are more likely to experience fatigue, compared to the general population.
What is fatigue?
The most common way to describe fatigue is tiredness, exhaustion or a lack of energy. Some people report feeling weighed down, delayed or in a fog.
“Fatigue can impact thinking, physical functioning and mental health. It’s not surprising that many people with fatigue report difficulties engaging in everyday tasks,” says Georgina Bell, Senior Occupational Therapist with the Epworth pain management program.
How common is endometriosis fatigue?
Up to 70 per cent of people with endometriosis experience fatigue, making it the most common symptom after endometriosis pain.
Endometriosis-related fatigue can be distressing. It is recommended to speak with your treating health professional about what you’re experiencing. Your doctor can order blood tests and review other factors that may be contributing to fatigue.
How can an occupational therapist help?
Your doctor may recommend a multidisciplinary approach to endometriosis, including allied health professionals such as an occupational therapist (OT). Occupational therapists can help you re-engage with your valued and essential daily activities.
Five tips to manage endometriosis fatigue
Georgina suggests these five tips with real-life strategies to help fatigue, so you can enjoy a better quality of life.
1. Plan ahead for flexibility
Planning is the first of the 3 Ps used in fatigue management. Start by reviewing what you’ve planned for today or the week ahead. Do you have a predictable pattern to endometriosis symptoms or fatigue during your period and can you make plans with this in mind?
- Use a daily or weekly planner.
- Aim to build in flexibility to your week where you can reschedule or spread out activities.
- Make plans around your symptom patterns or times of the day when you have increased alertness.
2. Prioritise what’s important
Carefully thinking about what matters to us can help us stay balanced. Think about your priorities – what is it that you want to do vs what you need to do.
- Consider your plans this week. Are you prioritising the activities that are important to you?
- Consider the impact of delaying a certain task.
- See if you can break a task down into stages.
3. Pace your activity
Try to find patterns in your tasks. Do you find that you do lots of activities at once and then need a long period of time to recover?
Pacing aims to avoid both doing too much (overactivity) and doing too little (underactivity), as this is what we call a ‘boom-bust cycle’.
- Spread out large activities. For example, clean one room a day rather than cleaning for three hours on the weekend.
- Plan regular rests while you’re active, such as finding a walking trial with benches.
- When trying to boost endurance, upgrade one thing at a time. For example, change the distance, then time, then terrain of your regular walk.
- When increasing activity, try breathing and stretching as a self-management tool.
4. Try swaps to conserve energy
If you’re experiencing a flare up, you may consider changing activities so they require less energy. The aim of this method is to ‘work smarter, not harder’.
• Sit to chop vegetables.
• Cook with ready-to-go ingredients like chopped vegetables and marinated protein.
• Change how frequently you do things. Can you change from daily showering to every second day?
5. Work with your senses – smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight
Some sensory activities are calming, while others make us more alert. Use these to your benefit based on what you need at the time.
We’re all different, so making a sensory checklist of your favourites can help.
- Drink a warm drink like a herbal tea to wind down, or iced water to perk up.
- Do a hand massage with a calming scent (lavender) or an alerting scent (citrus).
- Play music or sounds (could be classical music, rock or talkback radio).
- Spend time outside, walking in nature.
Speak with your treating health care team for personalised advice for your situation.
The Julia Argyrou Endometriosis Centre at Epworth can support you to access specialist and allied health care at Epworth, tailored to your needs. Contact our dedicated Endometriosis Nurse Coordinator with any questions or to schedule a nursing review.
11 May 2022