Life rules for the exhausted

Sometimes weariness is inevitable, but as one chronic fatigue sufferer has learned, when you can’t hit snooze on life there are ways of getting through it.

I’ve lived with chronic fatigue syndrome for a decade now, which means I’m practically a Professional Tired Person. I work tired. I travel tired. I go on dates tired. I mop the bathroom tired. Medical science still hasn’t worked out why this is (there are several boring competing theories), but I know I’m not alone. You don’t have to have a chronic illness to feel crappy in this modern life. Work, kids, existential dread – they all take energy. Which is why it pays to have some strategies for living a functional life when all you want to do is nap.

Lower your standards

I have a friend who threw a dinner party for her in-laws two weeks after having a baby. While applauding her ambition, I also secretly thought: “If that was me, they’d be lucky to get takeaway pizza sitting on a couch decorated with unfolded laundry.” Because this is the way of the Tired Person: embracing the bare minimum and trying not to feel too guilty about it.

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Do those dishes really need to be done tonight? Can dry shampoo get you through another day before a hair wash and blow-dry? Does it really matter if you feed people something out of the microwave rather than a homemade meal? There’s an art to cutting corners, and it’s mostly about what you can ditch while still looking in the mirror and recognising yourself as human. If dishwashing, haircare or cooking is your one true passion, then of course feel free to chuck something else.

The hardest bit is doing all this and not feeling guilty. If it helps, remember that guilt requires time and energy, which can be better used ice-skating, having sex or playing board games. Don’t waste it on making yourself feel sad and ashamed.

Outsource strategically

When I’m in full power-saving mode, I sign up for the cheapest meal delivery service I can find and get a week’s worth of food in a box every Tuesday afternoon. This saves energy on trips to the supermarket, any meal prep more complex than opening a container, and also – blessedly – having to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.


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Every time there’s an easy way out, take it

I don’t know! The box knows! It’s a single, strategically lazy investment that outsources all the mental and physical energy I usually spend on feeding myself to a third party. Sometimes, this is essential.

With rideshare and food delivery apps you can outsource a lot of stuff to strangers these days (budget allowing, of course). Sometimes it’s worth fronting cash to do things like get home safely before you collapse, or have a hot meal on the table in 30 minutes or less. One day I aspire to pay someone to occasionally help me with the vacuuming and ironing. For the Tired Person, this is a worthy goal.

Outsourcing also means asking for help from the people closest to you. Delegate tasks. Get specific. Be honest about what you need. Also be grateful and repay kindness with hugs, beer or whatever else is to hand.

KonMari your schedule

Over time, your fatigue levels may range from stifled yawns to crying with tiredness in front of the supermarket self-serve checkout. Obviously, this sucks. So once you’re through a bad patch, think about what got you there: which activities, stresses or people tuckered you out so much? This is your list of Things That Make Me Knackered. Your job is to make it as short as possible.

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Cut out the obviously joyless stuff first. The self-imposed duties and obligations. Then identify the bits where you could be doing less, doing something easier, or doing nothing at all. This might mean, for instance, that your one-hour cardio session becomes a half hour, or turns into yoga. Or maybe you ditch it this time and pick it up again when you’re feeling less crap. Every time there’s an easy way out, take it. That’s a little bit more energy you can spend on something else.

Because some stuff you simply can’t ditch (the important bits of life like child-rearing or turning up for work), the strategic Tired Person slacks off elsewhere so they have enough energy for big stuff like this. For family, for friends, for fulfilling work. For the fun bits, too: sex and ice-skating and board games. And maybe the occasional nap when it all gets too much.

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