As more people continue to recover from Covid-19 we are finding out that not everyone recovers at the same rate. The British Medical Journal estimates that 10% of all cases of Covid-19 exhibit symptoms for at least 12 weeks, including many previously fit and healthy individuals. In some Long Haulers the symptoms of Covid-19 have been documented to last past the 6 month mark.
Many of us have tried to accelerate our own recoveries from Covid Fatigue using exercise to prevent long-term disability and return to normal life - this has not worked. One of the biggest concerns from patients with Covid Fatigue is something called Post Exertional Malaise (PEM) lasting anywhere from hours to even months, if you stress your body out too much you could very easily set yourself back for a great deal of time.
As we learn more about Covid Fatigue it mirrors a not so common illness that has affected many prior to Covid-19. Interestingly about 80% of people with chronic fatigue syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis also started experiencing similar symptoms following an infection. It's become clear that we can borrow the principles we use to treat this population to provide the best care to those suffering from Covid Fatigue and Long Covid.
The best advice that this community can provide for those struggling with Covid Fatigue is PACE, PLAN, & PRIORITIZE.
Stop trying to push your limits, the rest that your body is asking from you is the most important thing. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You will recover much faster if you work on an activity such as doing the laundry or cleaning the dishes until you are tired, not until you are exhausted. Making a big push to finish an activity means more downtime in the long run. Remember that pacing yourself isn’t just for physical activity, but also for mental activity.
- Breaking up activities such as dressing or doing laundry into smaller tasks spread out throughout the day.
- Build time for rest to recharge your energy into your activities.
- Make sure to take 30-40 minute breaks between activities.
- Sit and rest whenever you have the chance.
Develop a plan for spreading out the activities that must be done. For activities that are particularly fatiguing, plan one day and spread that activity out throughout that day, making sure to take long breaks between each piece of the activity. You can even plan on giving yourself a day of rest between challenging activities.
- Collecting all of the items required to do the activity before starting.
- Look for adaptive equipment to make activities easier.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Triage your to-do list.
- What needs to get done today?
- What do I want to do today?
- What can be put off until another day?
- What can I ask someone else to do?
Here are some great examples of how to PACE, PLAN, & PRIORITIZE from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists:
There are people from all walks of life experiencing these symptoms. For example, here is an interview of a Physical therapist managing Long Covid: