Fighting Fatigue During Chemo: 11 Tips to Boost Your Energy Levels

Chemotherapy can take a major toll on your energy levels. The intensive cancer treatments come with side effects like persistent fatigue, leaving you feeling depleted. However, there are several ways to help combat chemo-related tiredness. With the right self-care strategies and lifestyle adjustments, you can fend off fatigue and maintain your vitality. This guide offers 11 practical tips for fighting fatigue during chemo and make it through chemo with your strength intact.

Why Chemo Causes Fatigue

It’s normal for chemotherapy to trigger exhaustion. The powerful medications designed to fight cancer can also negatively impact healthy cells, especially in areas of rapid growth like the blood, mouth, stomach, and hair follicles. This leads to side effects that drain your energy reserves, including:

  • Anemia – Low red blood cell count reduces oxygen circulation.
  • Electrolyte imbalance – Mineral levels like potassium can get disrupted.
  • Appetite changes – Nausea, vomiting, and constipation make good nutrition a challenge.
  • Sleep disruptions – You may have insomnia or be sleeping more than usual.
  • Emotional distress – Stress, anxiety, and depression can be mentally draining.

With your body working overtime to recover while undergoing intense treatments, profound tiredness often sets in. The fatigue can linger for weeks or months, even after chemotherapy ends. The best defense is being proactive about managing your energy.

1. Exercise Regularly

While your first instinct when exhausted may be to rest, regular exercise is vital during chemo. Simple activities like walking, stretching, and gentle yoga keep your body moving. This increases energy by improving blood flow, reducing stress, elevating mood, and helping you sleep better. Start slow and focus on what feels doable based on your current stamina. Even a short daily walk helps counteract fatigue.

2. Hydrate with Nutrient-Dense Beverages

Staying hydrated is key when combating chemo fatigue. Get fluids from water, broths, herbal tea, juices diluted with water, electrolyte sports drinks, and smoothies made with protein powder and fresh or frozen fruit. The nutrients in these beverages help your body function optimally. Dehydration will make your exhaustion worse. Sip liquids steadily throughout the day.

3. Optimize Your Sleep Habits

Quality sleep goes a long way towards boosting energy. Make sleep a priority by setting a consistent bedtime routine. Limit screen time before bed, keep your room cool and dark, consider using an eye mask and earplugs, and use meditation music or apps if your mind is racing. Let your care team know if pain or nausea are disrupting your sleep. Ask about medication options to promote sufficient rest.

4. Consider Energizing Supplements

Certain supplements may help ease fatigue, especially when dietary intake is low. Multivitamins with iron, magnesium, and vitamin B12 provide nutrients often deficient when appetite is reduced. CoQ10 helps cells convert food into energy. Ginseng, rhodiola and cordyceps are adaptogens considered energizing. Check with your oncologist before starting any supplements.

5. Eat Small, Frequent Meals

Chemo can decrease appetite, but nutrition is essential for maintaining your strength. Eat smaller meals spaced regularly throughout the day rather than 3 large meals. Snack often on protein shakes, yogurt, soups, nut butter sandwiches, and fruits and veggies. If food tastes metallic due to treatment, focus on cold dishes since cold temperatures dull taste buds. Avoid skipping meals, even when nausea strikes. Staying fueled will help stabilize your energy.

6. Schedule Smartly

It’s vital to pace yourself and take rest days because overexertion leads to exhaustion. Allow ample time for sleep and naps. Schedule important tasks for when you tend to feel more energized, like morning. Save your strength by asking for help, ordering groceries for delivery, sitting while cooking, and delegating tasks to others. Don’t pack too much into your day. Scale back on non-essential commitments to prioritize your health.

7. Seek Support If Your Mood Is Low

Fatigue can contribute to depression and anxiety during cancer treatment. These mood disorders leave you feeling depleted. If your emotional outlook is gloomy, ask your oncology team for a referral to a counselor. Joining a support group helps some people. Antidepressant medication may be recommended in some cases. Addressing mental health bolsters your reserves to handle the demands of chemotherapy.

8. Try Acupuncture

According to research, acupuncture can reduce cancer-related fatigue by replenishing the body’s energy flow. During this painless procedure, an acupuncturist inserts tiny needles along meridian points in the skin. Many cancer centers offer acupuncture. It’s considered safe during chemo, as long as performed by an experienced practitioner. Some patients experience increased energy after a few weekly sessions.

9. Prioritize Joyful Activities

Make time for hobbies, interests, and activities you find joyful and rejuvenating. Even when you’re fatigued, doing something you love for 10-15 minutes benefits your wellbeing. Play with pets, listen to uplifting music, work on crafts or puzzles, watch a funny show, videochat friends, sit outside in nature. Little mood boosters help you feel more energetic. Laughter actually improves energy levels.

10. Consider Your Treatment Schedule

For some patients, tweaking the chemotherapy schedule can help minimize fatigue. You may be able to receive smaller infusion dosages over a longer period, such as a low-dose regimen over 2 weeks rather than higher doses each week. Discuss adjustments with your oncologist, balancing fatigue management with effectiveness. It’s a very personalized decision based on your cancer prognosis.

11. Listen to Your Body

Ultimately, remember to be compassionate with yourself on days when your battery is drained. Energy levels often fluctuate day to day during chemo. Accept that some days you’ll only be able to handle the basics like resting, hydrating and eating. Avoid guilt about scaling back and lowering expectations on your worst fatigue days. Your body needs to heal. Respect its signals and be patient through the ups and downs.

Conclusion: Maintain Hope Through the Fatigue

Cancer-related exhaustion can feel never ending, but people do recover their energy levels by fighting fatigue during chemo. Until then, implementing little lifestyle measures can help lessen the fatigue. Use these tips to experiment with what works for your situation. With the support of loved ones and your medical team, you can make it through treatment with your spirit intact. Rest when you need to, focus on one day at a time, and trust that this intense period of fatigue will pass. You’ve got this!

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