How can I cope with fatigue?

Planning: Planning ahead is important. Do the things that are most important to you when you feel least tired. Use a fatigue diary to write down the times when you feel at your best and when you feel most tired. This will help you to plan your activities depending on your energy levels.

Energy levels: Keep a note of your energy levels during the day. Do this by taking time to check yourself and listen to your body. This will help you to identify the days on which you are best able to work. You may have to accept the fact that you won’t be able to do everything you used to do. It may be helpful early on to decide which activities you are prepared to give up. Remember not to use up all of your energy on doing tasks. Try to find time each day to do something you enjoy.

Rest and sleep: Pace yourself and plan enough rest and sleep periods.

It makes sense to plan a period of rest after a period of activity. You may find that you need to rest after meals too. Short naps and rest periods are useful as long as they don’t stop you from sleeping at night.

Treatment: It is also important to plan your days around your treatment. Try to avoid anything energetic or stressful for 24 hours before and after your treatments or if you have low blood counts.

In the home: Plan your day so that you have time to rest and do the things you want to do most.  It will allow you to plan activities for times when you have more energy. Doing things for yourself is very important but try not to feel guilty if you have to ask for help from other people.

Meal preparation: Try cooking simpler meals. There is a large range of ready-made meals available in most supermarkets. Stock up on these and use them when you are especially tired. Ask members of your family to have their main meal during the day, if possible, when they are at work or at school.

Managing day-to-day: Ask your family, friends and neighbours to help you around the house, with travelling to hospital, with your children or with the shopping. Talk to a medical social worker also and find out what support services are available. Use the extra free time to rest or do something you especially enjoy.

Laundry: If you live with other people ask them to do their own washing and ironing. If this is not possible, do a small amount of washing and ironing each day.

Shopping: Ask others to do the shopping for you. If possible, do your shopping on the internet and have it delivered. If you cannot, or would rather do the shopping yourself, these suggestions may help:


One of the worst aspects of fatigue is feeling that you are letting your family down. This can be even more upsetting when you have young children. There are many things that may help.

  • First of all, explain to your children that you are feeling tired and cannot do as much with them as before. You may be surprised at how well they respond.
  • Plan activities with your children that can be done sitting down.
  • Reading a book, drawing or colouring, doing a puzzle, or simply watching a favourite television programme together is an ideal way to spend time with your children.
  • Go to places where you can sit down while your children enjoy themselves.
  • Do not lift smaller children. Use a pram or buggy if you have to transport them.
  • Ask your children to help you with light jobs around the house.
  • Accept offers from others to take your children to and from school or help with childcare. Get babysitters in from time to time so you can do some of the things you enjoy doing.

In the workplace

During or after cancer treatment you may need to reduce your hours or stop working altogether. It can help to talk to your employer, human resource manager or occupational health department. Let them know that you may need some time off due to the cancer or its treatment. Don’t feel that you have to work if you are too tired.

Some people find that their tiredness is mild and does not interfere much with their work. Others find that it has a greater impact. For example, you may find it hard to concentrate or make decisions. This can affect the quality of your work. Fatigue can also change the way you think and feel, and this can affect your relationships with your colleagues.

If you do want to carry on working, you may be able to find ways of making your work less tiring. If you cannot continue working or are self-employed, it may be useful to talk to the Department of Social Protection. You may be entitled to claim certain benefits.

More information

To learn more about managing fatigue, read the Irish Cancer Society’s booklet, Coping with Fatigue. If you would like a copy or more advice, call our Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700 or visit a Daffodil Centre. You can also read or download the booklet on their website

Irish Cancer Society Logo221+ Patient Support Group thanks the Irish Cancer Society for permission to use the text of their booklet Coping with Fatigue
and acknowledges the contribution of the original authors of the booklet.