Last week I sent you a FREE guide of Key Steps to Your Wellbeing in Times of Crisis. If you haven’t yet, you can still download the FREE guide and you are welcome to share it. In fact, please do. If you know someone who can benefit from it, I’d appreciate you sharing the support. This week I have decided to add some ways to overcome chronic fatigue and brain fog as it is plaguing so many post-Covid.
I have not had Covid. I did have my first vaccine shot on Thursday and the only side effects I had were a sore arm and the worst fatigue I’ve felt since my first trimester of pregnancy! My brain felt foggy, and I just couldn’t get myself to do anything productive. All I wanted to do was sleep. This reminded me of a time in my 20s when I had the Epstein Barr virus and six strains of the Coxsackie virus active in my system at the same time. I was wiped out for two weeks and I got a severe chest infection that threatened to become pneumonia. It took months to fully recover my energy but, recover I did! So, I thought it might help you or your loved ones to find out what helped me get back to my ‘normal’ energy levels.
Let’s take Key Steps this week to beat brain fog and Covid fatigue so that we can…
‘be the difference that makes the difference.’
- Don’t judge yourself. I went through a stage of really beating myself up for not getting better quicker and being annoyed with myself for getting sick in the first place. I pushed too hard to keep going at my usual pace and I just made myself worse. I suffered with significant bouts of anxiety and depression.
- Surrender. Accept the fact that you are dealing with the long-term effects of an illness that leaves many fatigued and foggy. You are not alone, and your body hasn’t failed you. Quite the contrary. You’ve survived a deadly virus. Research is suggesting that the effects of long-Covid are similar to that of chronic fatigue syndrome. The good news is that you can improve your wellbeing, you just need to be committed to caring for yourself holistically.
- See a doctor. Check that there are no lingering underlying conditions of which you are not aware. I discovered that I was suffering from anaemia and my liver was compromised. I am not sure if they were pre-existing problems or if they were caused by the viruses, but it was important to treat them. Your doctor might also be able to suggest medication to combat your symptoms. Research is showing that post-Covid we can experience blood thickening and aspirin can help thin the blood and bring oxygen to the brain. This cannot be a long-term solution though and DO NOT medicate yourself, get your doctor’s advice.
- Get mental help. I am so pleased that I was already seeing a really incredible therapist. The support was invaluable in dealing with my chronic fatigue and the depression and anxiety associated with it. It was only then that I could transcend and build back to my pre-virus energy levels.
- Get support. Just be careful who forms your support group. While it can be useful to talk to people who are going through the same thing, negativity is not useful. My mum was diagnosed with Scleroderma (AKA Systemic Sclerosis) when I was 14 years old. I am now 44. She’s lived longer than anyone with this disease. The life expectancy of sufferers is a maximum of 10 years. She is remarkable! She lives with such grace and seldom complains. Initially, when diagnosed, she went to a support group, but she said it left her more depressed than anything because people were so negative. Her support is my dad, us and God. She has a very strong faith that has carried her through many dark moments living with this illness. Find support that really does support you.
- Prioritise! Being sick forced me to learn to prioritise. I was so grateful for this skill when I was pregnant and finishing my PhD. It was tough going! So prioritising and focusing on high-leverage activities when I did have energy was key to my success.
- Take more breaks. I found that working for shorter periods and rewarding myself with rest between helped me to stay motivated and have realistic expectations. The Pomodoro technique might be useful for you to try. Breaking tasks down into manageable chunks also helps to keep you going and it is important to rest when you need to.
- Stay hydrated. We all know water quenches thirst, but did you know a lack of it could make you fatigued? By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. And it only takes 5% dehydration to impact your brain functioning by as much as 20%. While any liquid will help hydrate you, water is the best choice. It flushes toxins out of your system and doesn’t contain any sugar or additives. I do like my coffee so I need to be extra vigilant and make sure I get enough water intake to compensate for its effect. I also pretty much stay away from alcohol. The most I consume is one (maybe two) glasses of wine per week.
- Eat healthy. I really don’t like to cook, and I have a very busy life. Being a wife, mom to four, entrepreneur and eternal student ain’t for sissies. I’ve found ways to prep multiple meals at the same time. For example, I make salads on a Sunday for the whole work week ahead. I’ve found ways to pack the ingredients, so everything stays fresh and it saves a huge amount of time. I also try to eat for my blood group (I feel my most energetic when I do), limit my intake of refined carbs and sugar and eat plenty of fresh veggies. I’m not a big fan of fruits as I find they are hard to digest and, any sugar intake I do have, I’d prefer it to be in chocolate form 😊.
- Get moving. Exercise is often the most necessary when we don’t feel like it. Being a runner, I found it hard to slow down to a walk. Sometimes it was even hard to walk. Keep going. Find movement that works for you, yoga, cycling and bouncing are all great alternatives. Definitely consult your doctor if you are having any difficulties.
- Find alternative health treatments. Deep tissue massage makes a big difference for me. Acupuncture has also been instrumental, many times in my life, while overcoming various health challenges. I see my body talk practitioner once a month. I have a great homeopath and iridologist. I know what works for me and I prefer to use alternate natural options. I am NOT anti-allopathic medicine. I take antihistamines because I am allergic to grass and no alternate remedy has managed to support me the way allopathic medicine does. Strike a balance.
- Consider supplementing. In 2001, I started going for Vitamin B and anti-viral injections once or twice a week (a mix of Gripheel, Engystol and Echinacea) in 2001. They’ve been invaluable to my health, so much so that I still do them 20-years later. I now inject myself at home every week. I have not had a single chest infection since I started this regime. And I would get bronchitis at least once a year and suffered with pneumonia as a child. I also take Keen Mind, Floradix Vital (the only iron supplement that works for me), VitaPQQ, Coenzyme Q10, Omegas, 5HTP, Vitamin D, Zinc and Garlic. I have recently been told about Magnol One. I have not taken it myself but heard that it is very effective in treating fatigue and burnout.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be careful when supplementing. You need to know what you are doing. I started my journey under the care of various health experts so I know, for example, that Zinc and Iron cannot be taken together and that we can have too much Vitamin D and Zinc in our body as they are fat soluble and cannot flush out of the body. You need to be careful and not overdo it.
- Sleep well. I am not the best at practising what I preach. I am a night owl and as I was finishing this article it was 02:18 on Monday morning. This week, Sunday night was the only time I had to write and I was happy to do this for you. It was written with love and I knew I could sleep until 09:00. In addition, I function well on 5 to 6 hours sleep. I do try for 7 hours as much as possible though and I would recommend you do too. Research shows that 7 hours and a consistent bed time goes a long way to keeping our brains healthy and protecting them from aging.
- Listen to yourself. When you get deeply in tune with your body, mind and soul, you are better be able to give yourself what you need. Really listen and make sure that you…
- Do things you love. Continually forcing yourself to try and get back to ‘normal’ is not helpful. Encourage and challenge yourself? Yes, of course. Just make sure that you have things to look forward to, a long bubble bath, afternoon nap, call with a friend, videocall with family, an afternoon off, a good book at the end of the day. Your need to nurture yourself and find ways to stay motivated on this journey.
What Key Steps work for you in beating brain fog and fatigue? It would be great if we can share our wisdom and ideas so together we can…
‘be the difference that makes the difference.’
NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.
About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides
Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 20 years’ experience in leadership and organisational development and transformation. She is a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner. She is also one of only three women in South Africa to hold the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – it’s the Oscar of the speaking business.
Sharon’s PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that has been published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of Henley Business School and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. Sharon has become known for her practical approach, useful tools and genuinely caring manner. She is really looking forward to working with you and taking Key Steps to ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’