What can I do to keep from getting sick again, and to have enough energy to do my job?
May 19, 2010 4:17 PM   Subscribe

What are some strategies for coping with a busy fulltime job, when I have physical fatigue? What can I do to keep from getting sick again, and to have enough energy to do my job?

So, I've accepted a fulltime job offer and I start work in seven days.

The work seems interesting and suited to my skill set, the people seem genuinely nice, and I need the money - my last job finished at the end of March.

What worries me is that it's a fairly busy job, with tight deadlines, and I'm not sure if I will be able to cope physically.

On top of everything else, while working in this busy job, I will have to have once-a-week home opens (my real estate agent are selling the flat that I rent from them) and I need to pack all my stuff up and prepare for an interstate move at the beginning of July.

I had a bad cold in April and was sick for most of April with a bad cold/sinus infection - my GP prescribed me 10 days of antibiotics, which fixed it.

Then I had two weeks of severe post viral fatigue (so severe that the recycling piled up inside my kitchen some days because I was too tired to walk down a flight of stairs to the recycling bin, and then back up again.)

Since this Friday, I have another cold again, which has turned into another sinus infection (my GP prescribed more antibiotics.)

Even when I'm not sick, I struggle to work an eight hour day - I have severe fatigue (partially sleep apnoea which I am treating with CPAP, partially cause unknown depite several tests), and keeping on top of grocery buying / food prep / laundry / dishes etc while working fulltime is a real challenge for me.

In my old job, I had nights where I got home from work and thought "All I have to do to have dinner is wash up a bowl and a spoon and microwave that yummy soup that is in the fridge... no, that's too exhausting, I'll just have a banana instead and go to bed."

I also used to run out of clean clothes because going down the stairs to the communal laundry with the dirty clothes, up the stairs again to wait 30 minutes for the clothes to wash, down the stairs to hang the clothes out, and then back upstairs to my flat again was too exhausting.

I even had days where I wanted to catch a taxi from my office to where I had parked the car! (I never did, but I was deeply tempted.)

What can I do to ensure that I can cope with my busy new job?

Obviously I will try and eat very healthily, and get enough sleep and exercise, but what else can I do to stop from getting sick again, and to have enough energy?

The new job is reasonably well paid. What (if anything) should I outsource?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I struggle with abnormal fatigue and brain fog. I've used ideas from David Allen's "Getting Things Done" for years, and I recently picked up this book:


I like the prioritization model a little better, in terms of how you're guided to organize what you *must* get done, what you'd *like* to get done, and what's on your mind. You can implement the basic ideas in about five minutes.

I've found it really saves previous brain energy because I don't have to make as many operational decisions, and I don't get caught in random draining tasks instead of working on the bottom line for that work day. And that means I can go home on time and recover from the day.
posted by zeek321 at 4:39 PM on May 19, 2010

Even 20 minutes of exercise a day will give you more energy throughout the day. It may be hard to get started but once you do I think you will find that it makes a huge difference.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:43 PM on May 19, 2010

Find out if there are any laundries in your area that will pick up and deliver your clothes. Get someone in to help you with the cleaning. If it appeals to you, maybe find out what the cost is on a catering service that can make a bunch of healthy meals, freeze them, and bring them to you. If that's too expensive, you might get together with a friend once a month and make a bunch of food to freeze and keep on hand so that cooking isn't quite so daunting after a day of work.

Your health/fatigue sounds very much like mine when I had a job working for people I despised and also wasn't eating right. For me--and this is just me, because I know tons of vegetarians who thrive on a meat-free diet--I stopped getting sick so often when I started eating a small amount of red meat twice a week. It also helped a lot when I was able to leave the job at the badly-run company; working for jerks took a lot out of me.

Keep food around that doesn't require any prep time, like fruit, nuts, pre-cut veggies, cheese, or minimally-processed pre-made dinners. I like to have bread and almond butter and low-sugar jam around so that I can always make a sandwich, at least. Drink a lot of water, more than you think you might need, particularly if you have problems with sinus infections. Get some sunlight every day if you can.

Good luck. I know how frustrating the cycle of cold/sinus infection/cold is.
posted by corey flood at 4:48 PM on May 19, 2010

What can you outsource?

Yes, I know money is tight, but there's a cost benefit analysis worth doing on the cost of having your laundry picked up and delivered vs keeping your job. I'd consider it an investment in keeping my income. (And it's pretty cheap in my experience, too.)

I'd also order a week's worth of groceries online and pay the Saturday delivery premium, and maybe think about getting someone in to clean once a week, or just to do the hoovering, dusting and loos once every two weeks.

With food, clothing and shelter covered, that frees up a lot of time, energy and mental energy for work.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:52 PM on May 19, 2010

You don't say what kinds of tests you've had, but I wonder if allergies have been ruled out? I was seriously fatigued all the time and had recurrent sinus infections that left me exhausted and miserable until I was allergy tested and started appropriate treatment for allergies.

So, just a thought.
posted by cooker girl at 5:19 PM on May 19, 2010

A few random tips from somebody who used to have disabling chronic fatigue:
  • Paper plates and plastic cutlery can be a big help when you're in an energy bind. Yeah, it's not so eco-friendly, but sometimes you just have to suck it up.
  • Grocery delivery is your friend.
  • No-cook healthy snacks are also your friend. I like to keep nuts, dried fruit, and really excellent canned tuna around.
  • It's good to figure out when your energy lows are likely to hit, so you can schedule around that. In particular, you can offset cooking. If you usually come home and crash hard, pre-prep your supper before you leave and/or on your days off. NB: a good rice cooker will keep rice hot and tasty for a surprisingly long time.
  • Another way to look at your laundry situation is that you didn't have enough clothes to give you enough slack in your laundry routine. Buy a few more days' worth. And consider wool -- it airs out well in a pinch.
  • In the long run, if you're over your fightin' weight, work to fix that. Even five pounds of fat loss, if you have it to lose, is five pounds you don't have to drag up and down the stairs.
  • Be extremely disciplined about "a place for everything and everything in its place", though I know that's hard when you're moving. When you're low on energy, the last thing you need is to be running around looking for things.
  • Don't get into the trap of thinking that the stuff you do for money is Real Work and the stuff you do for yourself is just... stuff. You have to take your domestic life as seriously as your professional life or it will go all to hell and drag you down with it.
The food problem is a pretty important thing to master. When you're that tired, cooking for yourself is very difficult, and it's all too easy to get into a vicious cycle of poor nutrition and fatigue.

Congratulations on your new job, and good luck.
posted by sculpin at 5:34 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you have recurrent rounds of sinusitis, perhaps having your GP refer you to an ENT would be more useful in getting it cleared up for good? I know I had a full month of antibiotics once for a vicious sinus bug, and Mr. F's old GP (who knew what people in his line of work get up to in terms of hours and stress) would cheerily write him for antibiotics *and* oral steroids *and* codeine cough syrup ("if you get jumpy from the steroid pack, just cut it with the cough syrup"). It's kind of the "Dwight Yoakam's character in Crank" approach, but sometimes you need to hit things pretty hard.

Antibiotics can also wipe you out pretty badly fatigue-wise, so go easy on yourself and don't expect perfect functionality while you're on them.

I doubt you smoke, but if you do, you may also want to investigate quitting. Most friends of mine who smoked found their cold-to-sinus-death situation greatly improved once they quit.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:51 PM on May 19, 2010

To the extent you are battling fatigue even when you are otherwise healthy, you may want to check out modafinil. My life was slowed down significantly for over a decade by MS-induced fatigue. It effected by career and education choices as well as my day-to-day productivity. Modafinil basically wiped that slate clean, got rid of the fatigue and the accompanying brain-fog and allowed me to function without other side effects.

YMMV and IANAD, but I do like to mention it because of the difference it's made in my life, and in the life of one other person I know. It does not always work and is apparently less effective for non-specific chronic fatigue, but it still may be worth a shot.
posted by alms at 6:24 PM on May 19, 2010

Check out Fungi Perfecti for immune support. Information on the individual mushrooms can be found in the Sloan Kettering

Also, check with a good local health food store (not one of the chains) and ask about live cultures to rebuild the flora in your intestines and a good multiple vitamin.

Eat whole citrus, not just the juice, lots of fresh fruits and veggies.

Good luck in the new job!
posted by SLOHands at 6:44 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, those antibiotics are wreaking havoc with your digestion by killing the good microbes along with the bad. A probiotic supplement (as SLOHands says, live cultues) will help you recover from that and boost your immunity. I go for the refrigerated ones, and take them before bed as they can stimulate digestion and that can be uncomfortable during the day. Good luck!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:34 PM on May 19, 2010

Get some generic Mucinex. It thins the mucus and helps keep your sinuses dryer. I went through 6 sinus infections and hundreds of dollars of antibiotics until doctor gave me a script for this (before you could get it over the counter).

I finally got rid of the infection without it coming back. I also got checked for allergies and started having shots which helped. For those days when you need a boost, sublingual B-12 (you put it under your tongue) has helped me.
posted by stray thoughts at 10:35 PM on May 19, 2010

I have a suppressed immune system and I find that it takes several rounds of antibiotics to kill a sinus infection. I had one for about three months once, and it took an ENT to believe me and give me a good strong and long course of antibiotics to get it cleared up. Then he gave me nasal steroids to keep my sinuses open (I think its Nasonel/Nasocort?) to keep my sinuses from getting so messed up. It doesn't prevent sinus infections but it keeps them under control.

I also have severe fatigue from my Crohn's disease, and I've done several things:
*Cook on the weekend. Schedule an evening to cook, chop and freeze meals. I make a 4lb roast and cook a few pounds of chicken. Cut it into bite-size pieces and you have something for a sandwich wrap, salad toppings or just plain for eating out of a bowl when you're too tired to cook more. I find protein is really important when I'm feeling crappy.
*Nap. I'm sure you've talked to an expert given your sleep problems, but I've read research articles showing that a nap really doesn't mess with your sleep patterns at night. So for me, its easier to sleep six hours at night and two in the day, right when I get home, than to sleep eight during the day. I feel energized after my nap, and can actually get things done in the evening.
*antidepressants: have you considered that depression may be influencing your trouble sleeping? When I was the most severely depressed, I was sleeping 18 hours a day and STILL feeling exhausted. It took a while to find the right medication for me but it helped tons. I still get fatigued from my Crohn's, but at least its not depression on top of it. Sleep deprivation can trigger mood problems, as can stress.
*take time to relax. No matter how much stuff you have to do, everybody needs down time. Taking a day off or an afternoon to hang out with friends will do wonders for your energy levels and mood.

Also, seconding the yogourt. I make my own and its amazing. Way better than the store stuff, no sugar and tons of probiotics. Plus, its easy to do.

Lastly, have you tried melotonin? Its a supplement that you can take in the evening before bed, and can help regulate sleep cycles.
posted by gilsonal at 10:40 PM on May 19, 2010

Some people cope by drinking lots and lots of coffee.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:57 AM on May 20, 2010

Take a look at the But You Don't Look Sick! boards and articles. There are a lot of other people out there struggling with chronic fatigue and other "invisible" illnesses that are in your boat. There is some great advice to be had in the articles and on the discussion boards there.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:46 AM on May 20, 2010

Nthing paying someone to do your laundry (fluff and fold), as well as finding a way to acquire prepared meals. When I lived on the West Coast, for some reason in my area there were a lot of people who were doing meal delivery services - you could 'subscribe' for a week of dinners, say, or dinner and breakfast, and once a week it would get delivered in a big cooler. I eventually stopped the service when Whole Foods came into town because I enjoyed their prepared meals and it was cheaper, so I'd roll up once a week and buy five dinners. What I didn't eat got eaten on the weekend. I rarely threw food out. Try not to eat in front of the television if you can avoid it.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to rest intelligently. I still struggle with this. On days when I feel completely worn out, it's easy to succumb to hours in front of the computer or the television and then you go to bed and the next day you still feel terrible. I now try to add some extra walking to my journey home (since I work out in the morning) to give me time to decompress, and then I have a list of 'fun' activities and I pick one thing from it. I know, it sounds like I'm a robot, but I come from a family that cannot ever just effing relax and I once read about a 'puttering basket' in which you put things that you liked doing (sketching, dvd's, origami, books, etc.) so that when you had down time, you didn't waste it figuring out what to do with it. Then, I go to bed a little earlier than normal - not a lot - and I find that repeating this when needed gives me 'quality' rest, better than coming home, shoving food down my throat, channel surfing until I got bored and then going to be later than usual because by the time I found something interesting it was late.
posted by micawber at 11:46 AM on May 20, 2010

Try adding Vitamin D supplements. For me, it's about 10 extra minutes of real energy in the day, which is often enough for me to eat a real dinner instead of the banana. Also, drink a ton of water.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:11 PM on May 20, 2010

I second alms' recommendation of modafinil. I only take about 1/2 pill in the morning occasionally but it's the only time I've actually felt like a real, productive person. I'm not sure if that cures the problem or it's just a band-aid for something underlying, but the difference is staggering.

See your doctor about procuring it, whether it's right for you, et cetera.
posted by amicamentis at 9:14 AM on May 22, 2010

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