We recently went on a long trip to the USA to visit my family. We live in Australia. The flights travelling overseas are very long and very tiring and the changes in time really affect me. I have “chronic fatigue” even though the “big doctor” didn’t diagnose me, my doctor did. She is working with me to improve. And I am. Slowly. That said, the time change and travel gives me extra weariness over the normal everyday weariness I face.
Going east, we struggled, but coming back west and jumping over the international date line wasn’t as bad.
This post shares a few of the things we did to make travelling with my chronic fatigue a bit better, and also includes some things that I wish we had done.
- Travel with a buddy. Having someone to help carry luggage, to share the meals and to have as a companion makes travel go more quickly and more fun. I’m so thankful for my husband and best friend. He makes travelling so much better, just by being by my side. We planned the trip together and worked out who would carry what, and what to pack and everything else. Having Steven remind me to stop and rest or help me think through something helped me pace myself better.
- Break up travel days. It helps with fatigue to not do too much travel in one day. We did this in our driving travels. We chose to stop somewhere and stay the night rather than push on through and drive 14 hours in a day. We didn’t do this when we flew heading east, and we wished we had. Going east from Australia we landed in California early in the morning after having been up for a long 15 hours flight, and we still had a full day of travel across to the east coast. We wished we had planned to stay overnight in LA. I was “beyond-tired” by the time we got to my parent’s place, and it took me a long time to get over the jet lag. I think staying the night somewhere may have helped me acclimate more quickly and be less fatigued.
- Make people aware of any food restrictions. Per my doctor’s recommendations, I have a few dietary limits. I was blown away with my family and friends helping with meeting those needs. When telling others of your need, it doesn’t have to raise a bunch of problems. I also have to say “cheating” doesn’t really help. So I didn’t eat any foods that I knew would bother me. There were probably some hidden/unknowns. But I didn’t cheat, even though the donuts and cakes were sometimes very tempting.
- Drink lots of water. I worked to keep up drinking water, but it was hard because some places had “nasty” tasting water. I think it did help with keeping up with hydration and prevented some headaches.
- Keep up the same exercise routines. This was a fail for me. I had been in a good 3-5 times a week routine with walking 10-30 minutes and I’ve lost that habit because all the busyness of our trip. It may have helped my stamina to have maintained my frequent walking habit.
- Know the trigger points and slow down or stop before they trigger. This is what to do in theory. I haven’t yet been able to fully succeed in stopping a project before I overdo things, but it does help to know my fatigue points. When my back starts to ache, pain between the shoulder blades and when I’m feeling a bit dizzy, I realize I’ve gone too far, or will go too far if I don’t stop. Unfortunately I didn’t stop before I triggered a lot of fatigue on this trip. There were days of cleaning a house, or farm chores or travel, sightseeing, or visiting with people, or working on projects (such as trying to see what I have stored in my parent’s attic), or taking a lot of pictures of family genealogy, and those days full of activity wore me out. Taking a bath, stretching, taking a gentle walk, using a heat pack and especially going to bed helped when I’d done too much. It made me sad to say to my niece who wanted me to play with her, “I’m sorry, I’m not feeling well, so I can’t go run, but I can walk slowly with you.”
- Keep up with meds and vitamins. Even with the time differences I tried to keep the same or similar routines as I do at home.It’s important to maintain the norm as much as possible to keep your body healthy amidst the stresses of travel. When lacking certain minerals such as vitamin D or magnesium, it can make a big difference with energy levels. (Side note, be on board with your doctor and take the supplements you need, not what I mentioned here…)
- Go with the flow. Try to establish routines similar to those back home, but also understand when visiting family or others homes that things will change. Be a “good” guest and follow the routines of the home when possible. I found it important to follow the same bedtime routines, but often morning routines (breakfast first, or shower first…) varied each day.
- Try not to plan too much. Of course this didn’t work very often. Most days were very full and very tiring. I did try to have some slow days to make up for the busy ones. Even though the to-do list seemed long, there were times I’d stop every so often and just sit and read or just sit and do nothing to take a bit of a break between the busyness. I had a book series that I was trying to read through and was sad to only finish three of the books. So next time I’m home, I’ll work on reading the rest. 🙂 Even with all that, it’s hard not to want to fill every minute with things. For me, I didn’t know when I’d see family again, so I felt like each moment had to count, and that is very tiring. So there were things I had to say “no” to, even though I wanted to do them.
- Take time to visit, not just do. Each visit is more precious than the last because I don’t know how many more times I’ll see my parents, my sister and my grandparents or other family. I used to rush and rush and not really think about how much time I was wasting by my rushing here and there. When I visit “home” now I realize more and more how each moment is special and needs to be enjoyed rather than busied by doing. I enjoyed sitting an chatting with family and tried to treasure those moments. I hope you can too.
- Time in God’s Word and prayer. It really helped me each day to try to focus on God’s truth rather than dwell on the pain or fatigue I was experiencing. I’ve been reminded recently of lessons from Job in the Bible. Job suffered much, for no reason other than God allowed evil and pain to come into Job’s life in order for Job to truly trust God and to learn to praise God in the trials. Here are a few of the verses I’ve been claiming just from Job’s life in how to be thinking rightly and in God’s perspective.
Though he slay me, yet will I trust him:but I will maintain mine own ways before him. Job 13:15
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. Job 19:25
And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. Job 28:28
I know there are many more ways to make travel less wearisome for chronic fatigue, but these are the things we tried to do to make the trip manageable for me.
I hope that some of these may help you in a future trip or event.