Managing Fatigue with Rheumatoid Arthritis

#RAblog is a seven day event from September 21-27, 2015. The brainchild of Rick Phillips, the goal of this week is to raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis and build community. Up on over to the RADiabetes site to learn more about #RABlog Week and find links to other participants. The prompt for Day 2 was how to manage fatigue.

Did you know that there is a biological reason for the bonecrushing fatigue that comes with RA? 

One way to explain the energy issues of chronic illness is through the excellent Spoon Theory, developed by Christine Miserandino. Imagine that your daily level of energy is contained in 12 spoons. Everything you do takes one or more spoons. The trick is to make sure that you end the day with a spoon in reserve, instead of blasting through all of them, or even borrowing from the next day (because that means you have less energy the next day).

I guess everyone’s energy can be measured in spoons, but people with chronic illness have less than those who are healthy. This isn’t just the less energy that means you’re a bit tired and need an extra cup of coffee. It’s the kind of exhausted that means you can’t think, can’t move, can’t do what you need to do. And there are days when you wake up with only eight spoons, because maybe the weather changed and your RA flared.

So we count our spoons and guard them closely, for they are more precious than you can imagine.

Which is why I need a nap every day. Or rather, why I have a mandatory rest period every day. I changed the name when I got sick of people telling me how envious they were, and how lucky I was to be able to indulge in a mid-afternoon nap. My nap isn’t an indulgence, it isn’t optional. Having a rest every afternoon is an essential part of how I manage my pain levels and my fatigue. And it is sacred — I don’t do anything between 3:30 and 5:30 PM.

Well, except when it comes to wheelchair rugby


Jean Bolduc said…
No one would question that we all need a good NIGHT's sleep to feel well, to be well and to keep your mental sharpness. Yet, it's almost funny how we in the West recoil at the idea of an afternoon break from the constant buzz of our always-connected lives.

I'm astonished that anyone would question your need for this and wouldn't like their chances in that Rugby match ...
Unknown said…
The fatigue is why I don't do anything on Friday evenings. I've worked all week and damn it, I'm doing NOTHING when I get home from work.

Sometimes, the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is to just rest.
Kaz said…
I find myself strategising and bargaining with myself - get THIS finished, then you can make a pot of tea and sit down for half an hour...on the good days. Working through my list for the day with breaks in between. There are days I sit down for that rest and then wake up an hour later - MOST disconcerting...! But, clearly necessary that day...
Hi Lene,
Thanks for explaining the Spoon Theory so clearly. I finally got it!! I used my 12 spoons today and feeling crushed right now. Looking forward to reading your blogs.

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