Tips for Conserving Energy
With CFS, energy is a precious commodity to be conserved and reserved with care. Since even minor activities can take significant amounts of effort that can leave you depleted, how you budget your energy can make the difference between a good day and a “crash.” Here are some energy management tips readers have shared that may help:
- When you have the energy to prepare meals, make larger quantities than you need and package individual servings in the freezer or fridge for later.
- Boil a large thermos of water in the morning so you have hot water all day for tea or instant soups and cereals.
- Shop in bulk to reduce the number of times you have to venture to the store.
- If you have easy Internet access, you can order many goods in bulk by shopping online. Some stores, like Sam’s Club and large grocery chains, allow you to shop online and then will bag your goods and have them ready for pick-up at the store’s curb.
- As much as possible, try to keep the things you need on one level of your house or plan your activities to avoid using the stairs repeatedly. Climbing stairs is one of the most energy-demanding tasks in a home.
- Look for assistive devices at pharmacies and home health supply stores to help make maneuvering around your house less taxing. A tall stool on casters can help you do things in the kitchen without having to stand on your feet the whole time. Another product called a “couch cane” can help you get into and out of a deep chair or up from a reclining position on a sofa.
Take a seat
- Sit where and when you need to. Standing uses energy you may not need to spend—especially wandering a large store or standing in line somewhere. Sitting to rest, even if just from standing, can extend your energy more than you might think.
- Make use of the chairs, benches and places to rest in many stores and public spaces. Try to incorporate periods of rest into all of your excursions from home.
- Some people with CFS carry lightweight portable stools when they venture out, so that they can sit any time and anywhere they need to. Many of these stools fold into nylon cases with convenient shoulder straps, no larger than a small umbrella. There are even several varieties of walking sticks and canes with seats you can fold out to create a small chair.
- Social connections are vital and have even been shown to boost the immune system. But it’s still important to be mindful of the energy cost they incur. Setting limits, timers and expectations can help.
- Try to limit phone conversations or schedule them for your peak periods of the day. Similarly, set limits on the amount of time you visit with a friend or with family. Opt for quality and possibly frequency over duration. Use a head set or ear piece to eliminate the effort of balancing the receiver.
- One grandmother with CFS explains that she visits with her grandchildren twice a week but for just one hour each visit. During that time she focuses just on the kids, then spends another few minutes catching up with her daughter before they leave. She says, “At first it was odd to be so structured, but now it’s become a cherished part of all of our routines. Like a special outing for them, a special treat for me. I think I actually see them more often because it’s a scheduled thing.”
Break it down
- Set a timer when starting a mentally or physically demanding task like paying bills or vacuuming the carpet. When time runs out, stop what you’re doing and take a break for twice as long as you just worked. Resume the task for another timed period or plan to finish it the next day.
- Spread time-consuming tasks out over several days. Oftentimes the things that are time-consuming are also energy-consuming. Remember, not every task has to be completed in one effort, even if that’s how you’ve always done it.
- Wash one “priority load” of the clothes you and/or family members wear most and then run the rest of the laundry in batches over the next few days.
Additional thoughts for working smarter, not harder
- Sometimes energy management is all about timing. Pay attention to your days and learn when your high and low points are. Try to adapt your routine accordingly.
- Think ahead about what you need to accomplish and do that, within reason, during your peak times. Set other times strictly as “do not disturb” times, and ask friends and family to honor them. Turn off your phone and put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door if you have to.
- Schedule rest into every day. Well-timed rest can sometimes make the difference between making it through your day and crashing from exhaustion. Don’t leave rest periods up to chance though – make them part of the planned routine.
- Similarly, when you know you have a day or period of exertion coming, get as much rest as you can in the days that precede it, and plan for lots of recuperative rest afterward. For some people with CFS, this type of pacing is the key to a balanced, yet active, existence.
Perhaps the most important energy management advice is not to overdo things on days you feel well and rested. If you really think of energy as something you have to budget, then doing too much on a “good day” is like spending your paycheck the day you get paid. Instead, think of a few things you most need to do or something modest that you’ve missed doing while you’ve had less energy. Be choosy.
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