Fighting Fatigue: Don’t Empty the Well of Resources

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by Dr. C |

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Keeping adequate reserve in our personal reservoir of energy helps us to be available for the lucid times. We need to minimize fatigue and add richness to life despite living with a chronic illness like Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Managing the well of resources involves not only filling up the well by following self-management strategies like TBM (my three-tiered toolkit consisting of threshold management, brain rewiring, and mindful movement), but also changing how we use those resources.

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In my life with Parkinson’s, there are certain events or things I must manage because they drain the well more rapidly, thus increasing fatigue:

  1. Getting out of control emotionally is an unfortunate event for many PD patients. If I’m approaching or crossing the threshold, I can try to stop emotional spillover into my life and the lives of those around me.
  2. Sedentary lifestyle. Light exercise does much to replenish my energy reserves. Gardening is my major therapy.
  3. Stress from any adverse event or action causes a shift out of homeostasis. Getting back to homeostasis takes as much time and recovery effort as getting out of sync in the first place. The larger the swing from homeostasis, the more resources I need to stabilize again.
  4. Spinning, flailing, and grasping in search of “feel good” quick fixes for chronic disease symptoms.
  5. Old voices and old habits that interfere with filling the well.
  6. Not managing or recognizing the flicker effect of symptoms.
  7. Social isolation.

These seven actions drain the well abnormally fast and are all on my “Do not do this!” list.

I’m still new at recognizing the levels between full and empty on my well gauge. The management strategies for these seven actions can easily be overwhelming.

It’s empowering to have enough energy to show up for those lucid moments and then engage with life in a purposeful manner. Even with progressive loss of body control, I can still be present in the moment if there is energy to draw upon.

The focus is not on what it’s like to feel fully refreshed with the well filled up. That seldom happens. Instead, my focus is on the small, everyday things. Recognize what can replenish gratitude every day. Manage the negative things before they escalate. We can’t draw from an empty well.

For instance, when I am experiencing my surges of pain, concurrently have an emotional button pushed, and the well is low, draining too quickly, I experience loss of control. At that point I can’t step back and hope to instantly regain control. It’s too late for that one deep calming breath.

The best strategy is prevention — don’t empty the well. Fatigue is unavoidable with Parkinson’s, so I must be aware of the surges starting and step back before the drain gets severe. I can take a timeout and refill the well. Draining and refilling the well takes some practice to learn.

Most anything that takes its toll physically (clumsy movements) or causes loud emotional brain noise can serve as fire-ready tinder for these experiences. It takes time to learn not only the early warning signs that the well is running dry, but also the warning signs that the draining process is happening too fast and it’s time for a break.

It’s important to share awareness of the well of resources management with our friends and family. It can be difficult to do this because we want to be present for them. When the chronic illness just doesn’t cooperate with our desires to accommodate others, then it’s best to be honest.

We can’t push through situations anymore, as the cost is too high. If the fatigue and mental fog are part of that day, then it’s not enjoyable for anyone to watch me “bleed out” in a crushing Parkinson’s fatigue. It’s best for me to come right out and say, “I’ve got to take a break.”

It’s easy to use the well of resources management strategies at home with Mrs. Dr. C. She gets it. But when visiting with family or friends, it’s not so easy. Like so many life situations, asking for help, or at least sharing what is going on, can be difficult.

Much of living with a chronic illness is about learning what makes life better and what makes it worse. Everyone will be different, but as we share our stories, we will find common ground.

These self-management strategies are innovative approaches to living better with a chronic illness. Like my readers, I am learning how to navigate turbulent waters.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Linda Dunnam avatar

Linda Dunnam

Is there a book out there on coping with stress with those that have PD?

Laurie Ferreri avatar

Laurie Ferreri

Thank you for this. I've been contemplating the same issue as my fatigue is so great. HeartMath has a concept of "intelligent energy management" which is also relevant and helpful. I'm learning how to rest more instead of pushing through. I can't do too much exercise, socializing, tasks in one day or I get push back. I just have to pick a few things to do and not pressure myself about the rest. Much different from how I used to be pre-PD!

Mike avatar


Dr. C,
I am sharing a recent experience. Thursday I had my 4th Coronovirus vaccine. My wife ( let’s call Her Mrs. Mike) suggested I share the experience with my Parkinson’s community. My wife had the shot with me Friday she was a little sore and head achey. I a PwP on Friday was super duper stiff. Less head ache but I could barely get off the couch. It is very hard for me to just be patient. Now it is Saturday, I still have Parkinson’s but am able to practice TBM particularly Mindful Movement. I am glad I did not hurt myself by not taking the help of Mrs. Mike even in bed Friday night. With Parkinson’s and aging every event can be a challenge. This is a Caution to my peers. Blessings, Mike

Joseph Beckett avatar

Joseph Beckett

Slowing down and accepting limitations is proving to be the most difficult. I've always been able to "push through life's problems.

Dr. C. avatar

Dr. C.

Hi Linda ~ Hope you can find our book, "Possibilities with Parkinson's: A Fresh Look" which is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or your local bookstore. We have a second book almost in draft form which we hope to release later this year. We hope that you may find these resources. Thanks for reading the column and we'll announce the second book later this summer (fingers crossed).
Dr. C.

Dr. C. avatar

Dr. C.

Hello everyone! We have had so many conversations between ourselves about "not pushing through". We were always able to do that. Not anymore. It's been just as hard to accept as to do. So Mrs. Dr. C. watches the calendar and doesn't schedule more than one major event a day. And if it is a major event that involves family or traveling, the next two days are marked "unavailable" for R&R time. And we work hard at not saying, "I'm not doing enough". It's not an easy task but we keep encouraging each other.
Dr. C.


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