11 ways to manage your post COVID -19 fatigue
If you’ve been infected with COVID 19 and still feel too tired to tie your shoes, you are not alone.
You may have noticed that there are a lot of new studies and information about “Long COVID” and ME/CFS (Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) which explains why some are not fully recovering from the illness, even months later.
This is all happening at a time of year when people are stressed out and tend to “push through” and do “what it takes to get things done.”
Last year, the theme I focused on was about relaxing, loving, and learning to enjoy the holiday season on your own terms. It was about putting health and well-being back on the priority list while still being able to indulge. We tend to put SO much pressure on ourselves during this time of year. On top of it all, our health is pretty much at the bottom of our list of priorities.
Things have changed.
I want to talk about my personal experience and my professional opinion when it comes to recovering from an illness that can kick your ass. I’m also going give you 11 tips that will help support your health so that you have the best chance of feeling like yourself again.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms, including shortness of breath, please seek appropriate medical care.
The information contained in this blog is intended for informative purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care. Unless you are one of my patients, I cannot make any kind of diagnosis or offer any individualized advice.
If you’ve been hospitalized and/or have experienced very severe symptoms, you may also need help from an occupational therapist. I advise staying in touch with your doctor.
Empowering the Patient
The primary focus of this blog is about taking care of yourself AFTER the fact. I wrote about how you can optimize your immunity a few months ago here.
I firmly believe that taking empowered steps to support your healing in addition to all the other distancing measures and basic precautions is smart.
Even if and when medication is developed to manage symptoms, we still need to take basic care of ourselves on every level, which is something many of us don’t even bother with when we are healthy.
In my professional and personal opinion, there’s more you can do at home to take care of yourself than you might realize. I’m going to remind you of some things that may seem obvious (because we all need a reminder from time to time) as well as a few low-risk, low-cost tips that I personally have in my own arsenal.
The strategy is about integration, not opposition, and there are plenty of sources I’ll be citing that show the basics that many tend to overlook. These basics are still an important part of winning the battle.
My own personal experience with COVID-19
Although I haven’t been tested, I’m 99% sure I’ve had COVID -19. (I self-quarantined for 2 weeks)
And yes, it has kicked my ass.
My recovery has been long, and has taken the form of extreme exhaustion. As in the smallest action took a LOT of energy to accomplish. As in getting out of bed. In fact, I’ve never experienced exhaustion this profound before.
I’m currently managing it using the 11 strategies and tactics listed below.
I’m also here to share my own personal experiences as well, so keep that in mind. You can take it or leave it.
If you are experiencing lingering symptoms, there is actually a name for it: “Long Covid.” I want you to be as informed as possible about the long-term effects of COVID-19. Let’s start with an article that’s easy to understand, from the British Medical Journal:
Post-acute covid-19 (“long covid”) seems to be a multisystem disease, sometimes occurring after a relatively mild acute illness. Clinical management requires a whole-patient perspective.
Physical problems you might experience in the acute stages COVID-19 include:
- Muscle weakness and joint stiffness
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue) and a lack of energy
- Loss of physical fitness
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Lack of sense of smell or taste
- GI issues including heartburn, diarrhea and vomiting
- Difficulty swallowing
The actual acute stage of COVID seems to be relatively short, but the aftereffects can linger on for days. The post-acute stage is the stage I’ll be focusing on, including how it can “drain your battery” and lead to chronic conditions, such as adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalances, inflammation, chronic pain, and even anxiety, depression, or the lingering effects of emotional trauma.
Managing the lingering effects of COVID-19
I invite you to check out this infographic, which demonstrates how to manage post-acute COVID-19. It includes steps to take for those with severe symptoms, which may include medical care, pulse ox monitoring, and rest.
You may notice that there is also a place for holistic and self-care, as well as community support, empathy and listening, and attention to mental and emotional health. This is common sense.
This is where I come in. These steps are just as important, if your goal is to recover as much as you possibly can.
The “Long long” forecast, adrenal fatigue, and healing from emotional trauma and exhaustion
I can’t say for certain how long the recovery process will take, since this virus is so new, and since each individual seems to respond differently.
I will say this:
Your “adrenals” have probably taken a hit as well.
I can see how this shit could kill someone in poor health. This is why I believe that it’s even more important than ever to pay close attention to our health, learn to be proactive, and take ownership and responsibility for our own well-being as much as we can. Taking care of yourself (from the inside out) needs to be as much of a priority as the external (outside in) approach to health.
Responsibility doesn’t mean that it’s your “fault” if you get sick and have a difficult time recovering. None of this is in your head. You are not imagining your symptoms.
The tips I’m about to share with you are tactics and strategies that I’m using right now to help me recover and get my energy back.
Let’s start with the no-cost solutions that may help you get through this tough phase of the illness.
I’m including this step for those of you reading this who may not have been affected, but still want to be as proactive as possible. If you can find someone willing to help, or help someone in need, that’s also good!
Make it easy on yourself by having a system set up “just in case” so that you can conserve your energy while you recover. Trust me, when your battery is running low, you’ll be glad you did some preparation to make your life easier, so that you don’t have to worry about mustering energy to wash dishes. The idea is to eliminate as much work as possible so that you can focus your energy on healing.
Do you have on hand:
• Easy ways to stay hydrated and maintain your electrolyte balance
• Easier ways to accomplish household chores, like dishes and laundry
• Nutritious food that you can either order in or prepare without any effort.
Can you order in? Freeze your favorite chicken soup recipe? Buy some boxed soups? Agree to have a friend help you out, and vice versa?
• Fresh sheets, towels, and blankets
• A supply of easy-to-wear clothes, slip on shoes, etc.
• A support system in place
• The supplements I mention in this blog
Take some time to get these things in place. You can thank me later.
Sleep is underrated. Regardless of whether or not your symptoms include extreme exhaustion, sleep is one of the best ways to recover from any kind of illness or injury.
Just like washing our hands is something we tend to forget about, no matter how many times we are reminded, we often forget that it’s the simplest things that can help us recover.
If you find that you need to sleep a LOT more, go ahead, but it’s also important to create healthy sleep patterns. If you find that you are waking up in the middle of the night, are not waking up refreshed, and require a nap or a dose of caffeine in the afternoon, you may be experiencing a degree of cortisol dysregulation and other hormone imbalances. (1)
Getting a dose of sunlight when you wake up in the morning can help.
You’ll probably be thirsty. Honor that thirst, and take it up a notch. Keep an easy-to see and enticing source of water nearby, such as a pitcher full of water with lemon.
Hydration isn’t just about water. Your body has mechanisms for staying hydrated. Proper electrolyte balance is crucial when you are healthy, but even more so when you are recovering from an illness. Electrolytes help make the most of your water, which will help you recover faster and manage some of the symptoms you may be experiencing.
Usually, you can get the electrolytes you need, including sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus through a healthy diet, which is what I recommend first.
If you must supplement, I recommend products that have a balanced proportion of electrolyte minerals, without the artificial colors and sugar.
4. Vitamin C (Standard Process Cataplex C)
There are numerous studies that show the role vitamin C has in reducing symptoms, supporting immunity, and supporting adrenal function. (2)
Tip: Take Vitamin C in its whole, naturally occurring state, which can be found in foods and some high-quality supplements.
Do NOT bother with ascorbic acid. Vitamin C does not operate in isolation. It requires co-factors to function and prevent its degradation. It needs compounds known as flavenoids, which are found in fruits and vegetables, in order to be of any real benefit.
You can get naturally-occuring vitamin C not only from oranges, but more concentrated sources like cabbage, peppers, elderberries, rosehips, gooseberries, persimmons, and even pine. I have a friend who lives in an area where high quality supplements are not available, but berries, including elderberries, are plentiful, and she is learning how to make teas and tinctures and how to harvest and store these foods when they are in season.
Certain uncooked animal foods, such as liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands, are also rich sources of vitamin C. They were used by indigenous people in northern latitudes.
Synthetic ascorbic acid is manufactured through a five-step process from glucose, using either acetone or a genetically modified microbe as part of the process. Purchasing cheap “vitamin C” or ascorbic acid is much like buying the paint on a car and expecting it to function like a car.
Where’s my car?
Don’t throw away your money. Invest in the real thing. I’m talking about the kind sourced from whole, real, food. I recommend Standard Process Cataplex C.
Zinc is a trace mineral that plays a role in more than a hundred enzymatic reactions in the body. It is very important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Many studies have shown that it helps fight colds and upper respiratory symptoms.
Taking zinc within 24 hours of the first signs of a cold can shorten the duration of a cold, as well as lessen its severity.
Zinc helps fight infections by boosting the production of antibodies against infections.
It’s also no secret that zinc deficiency may be linked to poor outcomes for COVID patients. (3)
There is growing evidence to support zinc supplementation in older Americans in the area of immune support. In fact, according to the WHO zinc deficiency is ranked the fifth-leading risk factor in causing dis-ease worldwide.
I recommend a high-quality, whole food-sourced zinc supplement such as Standard Process Zinc Chelate.
Natural sources of zinc include high-quality red meat, oysters, cashews, mushrooms, beans, ricotta cheese, and pumpkin seeds.
Enjoy these foods as part of your holiday celebration!
6. Get More Vitamin D
This is a time when many people are staying indoors due to both the season and the virus. It may seem counterintuitive, but the best thing you can actually do right now is get outside to get a good dose of vitamin D.
There are MANY studies (4) that show that vitamin D plays a role in keeping our immune systems healthy, in order to help us recover as well as one of the variables that helps us keep from getting sick in the first place.
Read more about my take on vitamin D here.
7. Chlorophyll Complex (Standard Process)
Chlorophyll Complex supports the body’s normal immune system response function. Don’t bother with the low-quality supplements you might find at WalMart or the grocery store. Again.. it’s the synergy of the naturally-occurring compounds found in high-quality supplements that have a therapeutic effect.
I don’t sell supplements in my clinic nor am I an affiliate. I’m simply sharing what I know works, because I use these products myself.
8. Gentle Movement
Even hardcore athletes may end up losing significant levels of fitness after a bout with COVID-19.
Although movement is generally recommended for overall health, more than ever you will need to listen to your body. If you need to take a break while walking up the stairs, for example, do that. Don’t simply “push through” thinking that it will help you get your previous level of fitness back sooner.
This is a good time to try gentler forms of exercise, but still be aware that even exercises that may be considered mild, such as walking or yoga, can also be challenging in their own right, and even more so if you are recovering from Long COVID or experiencing post-viral fatigue.
Do something nice for yourself to make the best out of a shitty year. Maybe your holiday traditions have been put on hold this year. Some may have given you a sense of joy. Others may have felt like an obligation that you may (secretly) be happy to have an excuse to avoid this year.
I’m not you. Only you know what works for you.
What new tradition can you invent for yourself? How about a day of sleep, healthy, nutrient dense food, and filling an entire day filled with simple things that bring you joy?
As always, I still recommend staying away from sugar, which is notorious for creating inflammation, (which can also have a very negative affect your immune response) hormone imbalances, and for draining what little energy you might have right now.
10. Conserve Energy
Maybe you prepared ahead of time to create solutions to ease your workload. Maybe not.
And now you’ve found that you are exhausted, have brain fog, and feel like shit. Now what?
Make daily tasks as simple as possible, and lower your standards a bit.
What can you eliminate or blow off altogether, so that you feel lighter?
Is there work that can be postponed?
What shortcuts can you take?
Is it possible to get help?
Maybe doing less work and lowering our standards just a bit may be a GOOD thing. (See my holiday blog from last year, which is for those who are stressed out by Martha-Stewart perfectionism and judgement)
The optimist in me says that maybe this year will teach us how to enjoy a simpler holiday season. We’ll say: Remember 2020 when there were NO cookies, no tree, and no family get-together?
This could mean that in the future, we will have a deeper appreciation for a visit from relatives we have not seen for a while, the gifts we do receive, a few strings of lights, and maybe 2 kinds of cookies instead of seven.
11. Take care of your emotional state
Now for something that may blow your mind. When we say that the mind and body are connected, I don’t think that many fully comprehend what this means.
I didn’t experience any symptoms myself until I received some bad news about a fatal car accident involving some relatives, and another dose of bad news: someone close to me is dying. It could be a coincidence that my first symptoms appeared when I first heard the news, but I think that it’s more likely that the blow was the trigger that brought me over the edge.
Something to think about!
I’m not saying that a respiratory virus is “caused” by intense grief, but I do believe that there’s a connection. For example, in Traditional Chinese Medicine there is a relationship between the emotion of grief and our lungs.
It makes sense to me that emotions can manifest in our bodies as physical symptoms.
Here’s the thing: Let’s say that you’ve just heard some really bad news, or a loved one has just died. Where do you feel it first, in your physical body? Was it in your chest?
Have you ever felt so scared that you peed or shit your pants?
So angry that your throat felt tight and your head felt like it would explode?
Have you ever had an uneasy feeling in your “gut” when you encounter a toxic person or idea?
Repressed emotions can also have a profound effect on our bodies and even contribute to dis-ease.
To me, this provides another dimension in the path to healing, which can be complex, nuanced, and highly personal.
In a world where CFS and adrenal fatigue is misunderstood by the general public and many health professionals, I think that it is more important than ever to be heard. Your symptoms are real.
The Heart Technique, which my services are based upon, takes your emotional state and many other variables into consideration.
I’m hoping that more studies will help us gain more information about the long-term effects of illnesses like COVID-19.
I’m also hoping that the next holiday season is about getting together, friendship, celebration, and quiet reflection without worrying about some of the trivial bullshit that some can get caught up in, especially when being around friends and family. Life is hard enough as it is, and also too short to be wasting energy on the things that don’t matter in the long run.
Here’s what I want you to know:
I wish you a holiday season and a new year full of healing energy, hope, and maybe even an opportunity to simply get some much-needed rest. I wish you a new year in which you find a pace that makes sense for you, without the pressure of keeping up with the frantic pace that is a hallmark of our culture.
The Paleo and low-sugar holiday treats will still be there next year.
Need some help with getting your energy back?
You don’t need to suffer in silence or even leave the comfort of your home. You can schedule a remote healing session by clicking on the orange button below.
Prefer a non-virtual experience? I’m your chiropractor in Lansing! My clinic is open and you are always welcome. I’m here for you whether it is physical (neck pain, back pain, recovering from an auto accident, and more) chronic conditions, or emotional trauma of any kind.
Call us at (517) 372-1381 to book an appointment!