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Long COVID

Managing your energy

Tiredness (fatigue) is common after having COVID-19. Some people might feel a little bit tired, while others might feel very tired, to the point of exhaustion. You might find that your tiredness comes and goes. 

On this page:

Why do I still feel so tired?

Many people recovering from coronavirus feel very tired (fatigued) for quite a while after they became ill. This can be because your body is continuing to respond to the COVID-19 infection, even though the initial infection has got better.

This fatigue can also be the effect of a serious illness. To give an example, the extreme tiredness caused by pneumonia can take up to 6 months to get better. People can also feel fatigued even if they have been living with very mild symptoms of COVID-19.

For more on fatigue if you’ve been living with symptoms of COVID-19, see the Physios for ME website.

Some people have fatigue for longer than others during their recovery – everyone is different. Lots of things can also contribute to your fatigue, such as:

  • low levels of physical activity
  • not having a set daily routine
  • low mood, anxiety or stress
  • not sleeping properly
  • not getting enough rest during the day
  • too much physical activity.

Trying too hard to exercise and get back to pre-COVID levels too soon can cause you to become fatigued. You may be experiencing a boom-bust cycle with your energy levels. Try to pace yourself. On days when your energy levels are better, try not to do too much, as this can make you crash again.

What can I do to help my fatigue?

How much energy you need and how fatigued you are will vary from day to day – even hour to hour. If you know you’ve got an activity or task that needs doing but that will need quite a bit of energy, it’s important to account for this. Make sure you rest regularly - waiting until you need to is often too late.

Make sure you plan, prioritise and delegate if you need to.

Plan

Plan your days out in advance, so you know ahead of time what you’ll need to do. Can you pass on certain jobs to other people, or do things in a different way? Try to build a regular routine and don’t pack too much into one day, as you can end up feeling exhausted the next day if you do this. It can be a good idea to keep an activity diary, so you can track when this happens and what could have caused it.

It’s not just physical activity that can drain you. It can be spending too long thinking about or doing a task, spending time taking with friends, as well as emotional stress and worry. There are different types of fatigue, which may affect you in different ways.

By keeping a diary, you can reflect and see what activities cause you to lose energy. It’s important to recognise your triggers for fatigue, as this will help you manage it.

Prioritise

Which activities are the most important to you? Do these when you have the most energy.

Delegate

Are there ways you can save energy and time? For example, can you do an online shop instead of going to the supermarket? Make time for things you enjoy too, as well as your usual tasks that need doing.

A good way to think about your energy is to think of it in spoons – called spoons theory. This is a way of allocating your energy (spoons) to your daily tasks. It’s also a great way of explaining to friends and family how fatigue affects you. You can read more about spoons theory on the Brain Charity website.

You can also use breathing techniques to help you do things if you get breathless when you’re more active. Getting your breathing right can help your fatigue. Check out how to assess your breathing at physio for BPD website.

The NHS Your Covid Recovery website has more on what you can do about fatigue if you’re recovering from COVID-19.

When will I get back to normal after having COVID-19?

Some people recover from coronavirus in a few weeks, but for others it can take much longer. It can be hard to cope if you are feeling unwell for a long time.

Try to set achievable goals that make you feel happy and are enjoyable. This may be physical or it might be something more relaxing. The recovery from COVID-19 can be slow and frustrating. Track what you are able to do and each few weeks you should see some progress.

Ask for help from friends and family if you need to. Doing too much too soon could set your recovery back, so it’s important to listen to your body. It’ll tell you if it’s tired or in pain, so rest regularly and be prepared to gradually increase activity levels. Try to increase your activity by 10% per week, if you’re able to.

Even if you have Long COVID, it’s important to get your COVID-19 vaccine, if you haven’t already. You can read more about the COVID-19 vaccine, including answers to some common questions, on our vaccine FAQ page.

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We’ve developed this information with funding from Garfield Weston Foundation. The Foundation had no influence on the information, which was developed in line with our usual BLF information production process.

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.