Fatigue is a common and sometimes crippling side effect of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). If you suffer from IBD your immune system tends to be in overdrive a lot of the time, which is a big energy drain for your body. Secondly, the digestive issues that IBD causes can result in poor nutrient absorption. If your body isn’t able to get the energy it needs from food, you can bet that you’re going to feel more lethargic than a person with an adequate nutrient intake. Add to this the common psychological side effects of IBD such as stress and anxiety and you’ve got something of a fatigue cocktail on your hands.
When you’re experiencing serious fatigue, just getting yourself up and dressed is something of an achievement. But what about the other stuff? Just because your body is forcing you to slow down doesn’t mean that work, relationships and life in general slow down with you.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of productivity ‘hacks’ that will help you get things done when all you feel like doing is crawling back under your doona.
1. Write lists
This is productivity 101. ‘To do’ lists can help you identify what needs doing so you can then allocate time and other resources accordingly. Lists also help your prioritise things and relieve your brain of the burden of trying to remember too many tasks at once.
List writing isn’t a demanding task, so it’s something you can do when you’re feeling zapped of energy. That way you’re saving your optimal working hours for the actual ‘doing’ part without spending time on organisation and prioritisation.
Be sure to write smart lists – always break down large tasks into smaller components. This will turn mammoth jobs like ‘plan Dad’s party’ into a series of smaller, easy-to-tackle tasks. You’ll be ticking off more items more frequently and this will create an ongoing sense of accomplishment. For our party planning example this might involve: research party menu, draft invite list, order decorations online, book venue etc. This way you know exactly what has to be done and you can focus your precious energy more effectively.
2. Swallow the frog first
This phrase is popular on ‘life hacking’ and productivity blogs. It means that you should stop messing around and get the hard things out of the way first.
Your top priorities need to be accomplished before you move on to the more trivial things. This is especially important if you’re prone to procrastination. If you are fatigued, your limited energy needs to be spent on getting the important stuff done each day, not wasted on leisurely walks to the local café, faffing about with clearing your computer’s desktop or watching delightfully cute YouTube videos of goats playing guitar.
Getting the unpleasant and necessary things done first sets you up for the day. If your fatigue makes you crash and burn a little earlier than you’d like, at least you got those top priorities ticked off before you had to go back to bed.
No one expects you to do everything all the time. And if the people around you – your friends, family and colleagues – are aware of your condition then hopefully they can help you when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed.
It’s not a matter of excuses or special treatment, it’s about reasonable accommodation of your needs. You wouldn’t expect a person with acute asthma to join you on a hike in the Andes. Similarly, if you’re suffering from fatigue as a result of your IBD, people won’t expect you to be pulling double overtime and over-committing yourself to a slew of projects.
With a strong support network, you can achieve anything. To get the best out of your team, you need to learn to delegate. This means letting go of some of the control and responsibility, reviewing the resources and skills at your disposal and then divvying up the tasks in an efficient manner. Many hands make light work, so long as you’re willing to let them share control of the situation.
When it comes to managing your fatigue the most important part is looking after yourself and putting your health and wellbeing first – always. Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat well and exercise (which surprisingly tends to increase your energy rather than deplete it). Take it easy and slow down when your body is telling you it needs rest. After all, burning out is the least productive thing you can do.