Finding calm in a fatiguing world

Recently I have given a lot of thought and study on fatigue, particularly the sudden-onset, overwhelming fatigue that those with chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis and long COVID experience a day or so after expending too much energy. I was chatting about this phenomena with a couple of friends right before we were going to do Ai Chi together, when one of them speculated that she may have been experiencing this sort of post-COVID fatigue. Before we got in the water, I found a copy of the DePaul Short Questionnaire for Post-exertional malaise DSQ-PEM which revealed that her fatigue occurred only after taking extremely long walks and resolved quickly~ and fortunately the questionnaire did not suggest that post-exertional malaise was an issue!

It seems that feelings of stress and fatigue are a common experience right now. The calming effects of Ai Chi are a good antidote. It feels good to move and stretch in warm water. The familiarity of the patterns of movement are comforting in a world of change. Our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to temper the tension of our over-active sympathetic nervous system. We can find centering as we bring focus on our movements and our surroundings.

Even if my stressed friend had been experiencing post-exertional malaise, there are tools that could help her to enjoy the benefits of Ai Chi fairly easily. Long-COVID rehabilitation for fatigue is customized for personal symptoms, but generally includes instruction in tracking activity, as well as heart rate and blood oxygenation monitoring, with a titrated rather than prescribed pacing given the available physical and cognitive “energy envelope.” The key is to learn how to expend the amount of energy to do what needs to be done and what you want to do at any given time, without exhausting your available energy stores. As a former rehab director, I know Occupational Therapists are a great resource in this area.

Sanibel ATRI conference

The Sanibel National ATRI conference is coming up in June, in paradise! On Thursday morning, please join me for an Ai Chi calming workshop where I will be focusing on calming aspects of Ai Chi along with Swedish aqua gong specialist Anne Asterhall and psychotherapist Patty Henry-Schneider. If you are interested in learning more about working with long-COVID survivors (or those with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis), join Beth Scalone, Mary Wykle and me on Friday morning for a Long-haulers round table discussion. I hope you can attend this memorable conference.

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Writen by mpierce

MS PT, Northwestern University; BS PT, St Louis University; CEEAA; ATRIC; Ai Chi Trainer since 2015; De-Mystifying Mindfulness by Universiteit Leiden on Coursera, Certificate earned on November 4, 2017;

2 thoughts on “Finding calm in a fatiguing world

  1. I’m so happy your friend isn’t experiencing an issue with post exertional malaise. I know there are so many people out there who are afraid of getting long COVID, but I’m so glad that the Omicron variant doesn’t seem to be as big of a cause.

    I am so hopeful that the long haulers are only long for a few months, and not the years we hear horror stories about. I’m so happy that we all have tools like Ai Chi and people like you to help us work through these problems if we aren’t lucky.

    That picture you posted looks amazing, what blue skies and blue water!

    1. Thank you! I was glad that she felt comfortable enough to share her concern with me, and extremely relieved that she did not need to deal with the complexities of PEM. While prevalence is hard to determine accurately when positive COVID cases are not always documented, more Long COVID clinics are available and tele-health can give more people access to good resources. I feel strongly that providing good community resources for “graduates” of those programs can make a big difference in the lives of many.

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