Fatigue Management 

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is experienced at some point after a period of physical or mental activity and is a signal telling us to take a break. Normally fatigue is time-limited and alleviated by rest, whereas 'pathological' fatigue, such as that experienced following brain injury, may be present most of the time. It may not improve with rest and is likely to significantly impact on people being able to do the activities they want to do. 

Fatigue after brain injury 

Fatigue is a personal experience that is different for everyone. For some, it may feel like overwhelming tiredness, which makes them unable to complete normal activities of daily living. People may say they feel exhausted, lacking in energy, weak, unable to motivate themselves or sleepy. For others, it may worse difficulties associated with their injury, for instance, forgetfulness, irritability, slurred speech, distractibility or dizziness. 

Recognising Fatigue 

In order to cope with fatigue, you must first be able to recognise it. 

Some signs may include: 

  • Yawning 
  • Losing concentration/attention 
  • Eyes feeling heavy or eyesight blurring 
  • Head feeling 'fuzzy' 
  • Fidgeting/getting irritable 
  • Limbs feeling heavy 
  • Stomach feeling sick 

Triggers to fatigue 

Triggers can be different for everyone. Some examples of activities reported to be more tiring following a brain injury include: 

  • Working at a computer 
  • Dealing with paperwork/correspondence  
  • Being in a busy environment such as a shopping centre 
  • Concentrating on one conversation in a noisy place, like a pub 
  • Driving or using public transport 

Managing your fatigue 

For some fatigue will improve over time. However, for many people, fatigue is a condition that they may learn to manage in the long-term. 

Unfortunately, there is no single cure for fatigue following brain injury. 

Managing fatigue requires a variety of different strategies:

  • Be realistic in your planning 
  • If you don't achieve an activity, don't worry, reschedule it 
  • Try not to brood on things you haven't achieved, notice the things that you have achieved. 
  • Be aware of and acknowledge your feelings and emotions but try not to dwell on them. 
  • Plan time in your schedule to do pleasurable activities 
  • Acknowledge that you may not be able to do as much as you did previously 
  • Pace yourself
    • Having regular rest breaks 
    • Planning your time and being organised 
    • Prioritising where to use your energy 
    • knowing what your triggers are and working within your available resources 
  • Prioritising: 
    • Which jobs are most important or essential 
    • Which activities do you enjoy? 
    • Which tasks could you delegate to someone else? 
    • Could you do any activities less often or eliminate them altogether 
  • Cognitive thinking strategies 
    • Using checklists to help you stay on track, such as a shopping list 
    • Scheduling your time using a diary, electronic organiser, phone organiser or Filofax 
    • Using alarms to prompt you to stay on tasks or to take breaks 
    • Doing one thing at a time to help your concentration 
    • Using flow charts for planning and decision making 
    • Using written notes or post-its as reminders rather than trying to 'hold something in mind' 
    • Using cue cards to act as reminders.