How to conserve your energy when experiencing fatigue

To do list

What is cancer related fatigue?

Cancer related fatigue involves experiencing long lasting feelings of tiredness and exhaustion on a regular basis, a persistent condition commonly associated with cancer and cancer treatment.  Experiencing fatigue can interfere with a person’s daily functioning, affecting the ability to go about their daily routine and complete all necessary tasks.

The effects of cancer related fatigue can be long term, some people reporting experiencing cancer related fatigue up to 5 years following finishing treatment. Many cancer patients report the fatigue to be accompanied by sleep disturbance, depression and anxiety

Approximately 30% of cancer patients experience persistent or chronic fatigue.

What helps?

A combination of exercise, mindfulness techniques, focusing on improving sleep and energy conservation strategies have been found to be helpful in alleviating cancer related fatigue. 

Energy conservation strategies

Energy conservation techniques are basically methods to apply to your daily routine to help you remain productive while managing your fatigue.

Here are some tips to conserve your energy throughout the day:

  • Rest breaks: Schedule frequent rest breaks so there is time to recover following completing an activity
  • Consider the time of day to do demanding tasks: Plan to do larger tasks when you are feeling low levels of fatigue. For some, energy levels may peak first thing in the morning and for others in the evening. Everyone experiences fatigue differently.
  • Take your time to do tasks: Take your time to complete activities to conserve your energy. Rushing may exacerbate any fatigue you may feel.
  • Simplify your task: consider how your task could be broken down and completed in ‘chunks’ with rest breaks in between. 
  • Sit while completing tasks: Standing consumes more energy. Where possible, complete tasks while seated. For example, sit while doing washing, bathing, dressing or preparing meals.
  • Draw on your supports: consider delegating tasks to others that may be too energy consuming.
  • Shop during quieter times: When there are less crowds in public, you are more likely to be able to park closer, queue for shorter times and complete your shopping faster. 

In a study exploring cancer patients experiences with managing their fatigue and applying these energy conservation techniques, here were some common responses:

“Taking a trial and error approach to see what works is helpful”

“Doing a bit, then resting for a bit, works for me”

“I’m learning to recognise and live within my body’s limitations”

“My body needs rest, but I need a regime and I need to be working towards something and pacing myself”

Here is how one of our grant recipients plans to manage his fatigue while playing golf:

“I used my CGF grant to purchase a set of electronic Golf Buggy wheels, which will  allow me to play golf easier and more frequently. The buggy wheels are remote controlled and take out the need to push the weight of the bag/buggy. During my treatment I have noticed that I fatigue quite quickly, and this accessory will allow me to continue to play the sport I love with less burden.”

Jack, recovering from Ewing’s Sarcoma

Listen to your body 

When you experience signs of fatigue, ensure you stop the activity that you are doing if it is contributing to or worsening your symptoms. 

It is important to note that for individuals with chronic fatigue, deteriorations might occur even when practising appropriate coping strategies.

Talk to your health care professional

If you are struggling to manage your fatigue, contact your relevant health care professional. Your doctor, occupational therapist or physiotherapist could help you with individualised strategies to manage your fatigue. 

 

  1. Abrahams, H. J. G., Gielissen, M. F. M., Schmits, I. C., Verhagen, C. A., Rovers, M. M., & Knoop, H. (2016). Risk factors, prevalence, and course of severe fatigue after breast cancer treatment: A meta‐analysis involving 12327 breast cancer survivors. Annals of Oncology, 27(6), 965– 974. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdw099
  2. Hilfiker R, Meichtry A, Eicher M, et al. Exercise and other non-pharmaceutical interventions for cancerrelated fatigue in patients during or after cancer treatment: a systematic review incorporating an indirect-comparisons meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med 2018; 52(10): 651–658.
  3. Kim, S., Han, J., Young Lee, M., & Kyeong Jang, M. (2019). The experience of cancer‐related fatigue, exercise and exercise adherence among women breast cancer survivors: Insights from focus group interviews. Journal of clinical nursing, 29(5-6). doi: 10.1111/jocn.15114
  4. Kessels, E., Husson, O., & Van der Feltz‐Cornelis, C. M. (2018). The effect of exercise on cancer‐related fatigue in cancer survivors: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 14, 479– 494. https://doi-org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/10.2147/NDT.S150464
  5. Kuhnt, S., Friedrich, M., Thomas, S., Peter, E., & Andreas, H. (2019). Predictors of fatigue in cancer patients: a longitudinal study. Supportive care in cancer, 27, 3463-3471. doi: 10.1007/s00520-019-4660-4
  6. Koornstra RHT, Peters M, Donofrio S, et al. Management of fatigue in patients with cancer—a practical overview. Cancer Treat Rev 2014; 40(6): 791–799. 8. 
  7. Mindfulness for the Self-Management of Fatigue, Anxiety, and Depression in Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Mixed Methods Feasibility Study Caroline Eyles, MA, PhD1 , Geraldine M. Leydon, BA, MA, PhD, Dip PH1 , Caroline J. Hoffman, BSW, RN, PhD2 , Ellen R. Copson, BSc, MB BS, PhD1 , Philip Prescott, ARCS, DIC, PhD1 , Maria Chorozoglou, BSc, MSc1 , and George Lewith, MD, FRCP, MRCGP1 Integrative Cancer Therapies 2015, Vol. 14(1) 42–56 © The Author(s) 2014 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1534735414546567
  8. Mustian, K. M., Alfano, C. M., Heckler, C., Kleckner, A. S., Kleckner, I. R., Leach, C. R., … Miller, S. M. (2017). Comparison of pharmaceutical, psychological, and exercise treatments for cancer‐related fatigue: A meta‐analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology, 3(7), 961– 968. https://doi-org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.6914
  9. Irma Pinxsterhuis, Live Lange Hellum, Hilde Hassum Aannestad & Unni Sveen (2015) Development of a group-based self-management programme for individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome: a pilot study, Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 22:2, 117-125, DOI: 10.3109/11038128.2014.985608
  10. Stomski NJ, Petterson A, Kristjanson L, et al. The effect of self-selected complementary therapies on cancer patients’quality of life and symptom distress: a prospective cohort study in an integrative oncology setting. Complement Ther Med 2018; 37: 1–5. (EDIT REF)
  11. Solheim TS, Laird BJA, Balstad TR, et al. Cancer cachexia: rationale for the MENAC (Multimodal—Exercise, Nutrition and Anti-inflammatory medication for Cachexia) trial. BMJ Support Palliat Care 2018; 8(3): 258–265.
  12. Tomlinson, D., Diorio, C., Beyene, J., & Sung, L. (2014). Effect of exercise on cancer‐related fatigue: A meta‐analysis. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 93(8), 675– 686. https://doi-org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/10.1097/PHM.0000000000000083
  13. Weis, J. (2011). Cancer‐related fatigue: Prevalence, assessment and treatment strategies. Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research, 11(4), 441– 446. https://doi-org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/10.1586/erp.11.44
  14. White AJ, Weinberg CR, Park YM, et al. Sleep characteristics, light at night and breast cancer risk in a prospective cohort. Int J Cancer 2017; 141(11): 2204– 2214.
  15. Willems RA, Bolman CAW, Mesters I, et al. Short-term effectiveness of a web-based tailored intervention for cancer survivors on quality of life, anxiety, depression, and fatigue: randomized controlled trial. Psychooncology 2017; 26(2): 222–230.
  16. Winters-Stone KM, Moe EL, Perry CK, et al. Enhancing an oncologist’s recommendation to exercise to manage fatigue levels in breast cancer patients: a randomized controlled trial. Support Care Cancer 2018; 26(3): 905–912.
  17. Yu, C., Wang, T., Chang, C., Liang, S., Fang, S., Liu, C., & Lu, Y. Y. (2020). Healthy life styles, sleep and fatigue in endometrial cancer survivors: a cross-sectional study. Journal of clinical nursing, 29(7-8). doi: 10.1111/jocn.15189

Enjoy reading this?

Join our newsletter today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *