How to cope with cancer-related fatigue

September 29, 2015 Providence Health Team

If you have cancer, you likely know the feeling of overwhelming fatigue — the kind that drains you physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s the kind of prolonged fatigue that leaves you listless and too weak to perform routine activities. If this sounds familiar, read on and get tips on dealing with cancer-related fatigue.

Stay active

Adopt a regular exercise routine. Moderate-vigorous activity, such as walking, may help mitigate fatigue. Start by walking a few minutes at a time and slowly build up your endurance. Go on several short walks a day if that’s easier. Consider keeping a journal to log how you feel each day. You might notice patterns of what exacerbates or eases your fatigue.

Don’t get too much rest

Sleeping too much can actually reduce your energy level. Aim for seven to eight hours of slumber a night, and limit naps to 30 minutes. If you can’t sleep, talk with your doctor, who can recommend the best course of action.

Speak up

Don’t overexert yourself. Ask your family or friends if you need help running errands or doing housework. Loved ones may want to assist but they might not know how. Don’t be shy about making explicit requests, for instance, picking up groceries or weeding the yard. If you are too tired to get out of bed for 24 hours, contact your physician. Symptoms such as confusion, dizziness, loss of balance or breathlessness also warrant a call to the doctor.

Join a support group

The benefits of a support group are three-fold. First, it gives you a forum for sharing your feelings, which may lighten the burden of fatigue. Second, it allows you to hear other people’s stories and get ideas on how to better manage fatigue. Lastly, it enables you to join a community so that you don’t have to experience cancer, or its side effects, alone.

Eat well

Stay hydrated throughout the day. The American Cancer Society recommends 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Treat yourself to delicious food that gives you enough protein and calories to heal properly.

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