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Dealing with post-COVID exhaustion?

Monday, Oct 04, 2021

Everything we do - from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep - consumes energy.

Some tasks, such as vacuuming or doing laundry, require a great amount of energy while others, like paying bills or reading a newspaper, require less.

While most of us can go throughout our days without worrying about “running out of steam”, there are many whose underlying health conditions make it necessary to carefully guard and ration their limited energy reserves.

Anne Walczak, OTR/L, and Marcia Brassard, MOTR/L, of rehabilitation-based healthcare system Gaylord Specialty Healthcare in Wallingford, Connecticut, together, lead a team of occupational therapists who specialize in helping hospitalized patients recovering from COVID, COPD, respiratory conditions and other deconditioning syndromes find creative ways to conserve and maximize their energy reserves throughout their day.

“Our goal is to help people with limited endurance adapt the way they do their day-to-day tasks of work, rest, and play with the least amount of energy and time, something we call work simplification, for maximum quality of life,” said Brassard.

Strategically plan your day – and your week.  
Walczak explained that it’s a good idea to complete the most important tasks whenever you have the most energy.

“That can be in the morning, midday or evening,” she explained, adding that care should be taken to avoid high-energy tasks on days with appointments or outside commitments. Pacing yourself throughout the day and spreading chores over the course of your week, she said, is also key to maximum energy conservation.

“Don’t attempt to take on any task that you don’t need to,” she stressed. “It’s more important to save your energy for more critical tasks.”

Be smart about how you perform daily activities.
“Simple modifications to performing everyday tasks, like sitting down while you’re doing meal prep or using a shower chair during bathing, can make a huge impact on your energy consumption,” said Brassard.

“Pushing, not pulling, can safely generate more force with less effort. Using both hands to complete a task splits up the amount of exertion instead of placing it entirely on one.”

Brassard recommends making a thorough review of the kitchen and other rooms to group and arrange the most commonly used items so that they are easily within reach without needing to bend or stretch.

“Excess bending not only requires more energy but also can make breathing more difficult. It’s also a good idea to wear slip-on shoes or use a footstool to put on shoes and socks.”

It’s okay to rest … and ask for help.
Both Walczak and Brassard emphasized the importance of giving yourself a break – both mentally and physically.

“Remember that it’s not always feasible to commit to the same baseline level of activity and tasks that you are used to. It’s okay to excuse yourself from tasks you don’t need to do or avoid routines and traditions that no longer work for your condition.”

Most importantly, Brassard said, is to consider asking family and friends for help.

“Delegate, delegate, and delegate!” she stressed.

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