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I have chronic fatigue syndrome. These are my top self-care tips to have more energy and feel less exhausted.

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Amy Arthur was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome at 15. She's learned rest is essential to her self-care since then.Courtesy of the author
  • I've had chronic fatigue syndrome since I was 15 and at time struggled to get out of the house.

  • Rest is essential and we should treat it as such as a society.

  • I learned that I have limited energy and I use it for things that I care about.

At age 15, I developed chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that causes extreme exhaustion, pain, cognitive issues, and more. At times I've been unable to leave the house, and I spent some of my school years in a wheelchair. Living with limited energy for so long has taught me a thing or two about managing fatigue.

I'm always struck by how easily people shrug off exhaustion as a symptom of normal life. Yes, we're bound to feel tired after a taxing day or spending a long time on the go, but prolonged feelings of fatigue that impact your regular activities should not be ignored.

If you're struggling to get out of bed every morning, in a state of constant stress and unable to relax, or lacking the energy to maintain hobbies and relationships, it's time to take your exhaustion seriously. Here are my top tips for dealing with persistent fatigue.

I started paying attention to my energy levels

Fatigue can present in numerous ways. You might be physically exhausted at the end of the day, zapped by running around after kids, commuting, or doing a manual job. Intense cognitive effort can make you mentally exhausted, while stress and burnout often cause emotional exhaustion.

Keeping a log or diary of your feelings is a good way to spot patterns across the days and weeks. When you understand the current drains on your energy, you can identify areas in your life where you desperately need respite.

I treat rest as non-negotiable

We're not machines. We weren't designed to be always on the go — in fact, evolution by natural selection favors adaptations that help animals to conserve energy.

Although too much inactivity can make you tired, in a society where busyness is seen as a status symbol, it's usually overexertion that leads to fatigue. We need to change the narrative: rest isn't a luxury only to be afforded once you've ticked everything off your to-do list. It's as essential to healthy living as a balanced diet and a good night's sleep.

You may initially feel guilty when you rest. Try to sit with the discomfort rather than give in to the temptation to keep pushing on. Choose rest activities that allow you to recoup some of the energy you've used.

I eat smart

The food we eat directly impacts our energy levels, so it's important to maintain a diet that supports good health. Of course, planning and cooking meals takes mental and physical energy, so building a bank of low-effort recipes for times of extreme fatigue can be really helpful.

In each meal the largest food group should be vegetables, and leafy greens like kale or spinach are best for supporting your cognitive energy. It's also worth experimenting with your caffeine intake, as you may find it makes you have less energy, not more.

I've started monitoring my sugar intake after noticing an energy crash after eating something sweet, though not everyone will be affected by rises and falls in blood sugar levels.

I set boundaries around how to use my limited energy

You don't get a say in where all your energy goes. You have to work, do chores, take care of kids, and your body uses energy to move muscles, power your brain and digest food. But above these necessities, you can set boundaries for what and who is allowed to use your energy.

When choosing to take on something new, decide in advance how much time and energy you'll allocate to it. You'll likely underestimate it, but you will be more aware of the potential for exhaustion. If you can delegate a task that's draining you, do it, but make sure you do so effectively — don't spend energy worrying or micro-managing.

I've lived nearly half my life with chronic fatigue syndrome, and I've realized that while it's important to protect your energy, don't hoard it. Energy is meant to be used, whether in the pursuit of goals, on things that make us happy, or on activities that bring us together with the people we love.

Read the original article on Business Insider