Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of post COVID syndrome (long COVID). Post COVID fatigue is different to general tiredness. When you are tired you know that if you rest or get some sleep you will feel better. Post COVID fatigue is still there when you wake up and stays with you all day. It’s a lack of energy, a feeling of physical, cognitive, and emotional exhaustion. The feeling of exhaustion leaves you unable to continue functioning at the level of your normal ability. It therefore affects every area of your life – including work or study, social activity, family life, exercise, relationships, and everyday household tasks.
Post viral fatigue is common when recovering from a virus such as COVID 19. Fatigue is a normal response to fighting a virus such as COVID 19 and can continue after the initial infection has cleared. In many this resolves in the following 4-6 weeks. Some people experience symptoms beyond this. Fatigue can affect:
- Physical wellbeing- ability to do physical activity such as household chores, getting washed and dressed, cooking, walking, sport
- Cognitive ability- concentration, ability to remember information or recent events clearly, multi-tasking. Tasks that require cognitive energy include reading, conversations, using a computer, planning shopping, and making decisions.
- Emotional wellbeing- when feeling exhausted it is hard to deal with emotionally challenging situations you may experience feeling low, more tearful, or more irritable. IT is common to feel frustrated at your current situation.
Your COVID recovery website, 2022 and RCOT 2022
How do I Manage my fatigue?
Coming to terms with the fatigue you are experiencing will help you manage your recovery. The recovery journey from fatigue will be different for everyone. Some individuals need time to learn how to manage their fatigue. On the days you feel better it is easy to overdo things or feel a pressure to get things done you haven’t managed to do whilst feeling less well. This leads to increased exhaustion during or after activities, with a time of feeling less well. This cycle is called boom and bust cycle. Carrying out your day-to-day activities in a boom-and-bust cycle is likely to make your recovery take longer, as you have an exaggerated cycle of very good days and very bad days.
Pacing is a technique used to manage fatigue and find a level activity you can complete which is manageable. The Royal College of Occupational Therapists has some useful advice regarding pacing.
If you fatigue continues to affect your day-to-day life our rehab hubs at Chesterfield Royal Hospital and Florence Nightingale Hospital can work with you to look at activity management, pacing and slow build up of activity to return to as many of your usual activities as possible. One way of doing this is to keep an activity diary to help identify patterns in your fatigue. Here is an example of an activity planner.
Return to work with post COVID fatigue?
Understandably people are keen to return to work as soon as possible, however fatigue can be a large barrier to this. Remember to consider return to work you have to slowly build up day to day activity first. Consider what you could do in small amounts at home to prepare yourself for tasks you may have to do at work. E.g., using a computer, being able to move around, to increase time concentrating on activities. Before returning to work, it is important that you feel well enough to function in day-to-day activities at home. This might mean temporarily scaling back your level of activity, seeking medical help, or simply accepting that you need a little longer to recover. Returning to work too early might lead to additional periods of sickness absence. However, more importantly, it might lead to setback which can sometimes take several weeks or even months to recover from. This link gives some further advice re return to work: