It’s a horrible feeling when you wake up in the morning feeling so weak that it’s almost impossible to get out of bed and get moving. When the fatigue is so extreme and the weakness so profound that you end up staying in bed all day eventually feeling even more depleted.
Understanding the root cause whatever it may be (i.e. the level of cortisol and blood sugar, disturbed circadian rhythm, imbalance of the nervous system etc.) and addressing it directly is what’s going give you lasting results in the long run.
In this post, however, we won’t focus on the treatment, but on the tools that can assist you along the way.
So while you are dealing with the root cause of your morning fatigue, these simple steps and practices can help you make your mornings more manageable:
1. Give yourself time and take it slowly
Our body needs time to transition from sleep, and sometimes it may seem like it takes forever for you to wake up. This is especially true with chronic fatigue. But try to be patient and give yourself time whenever it is possible. Allow yourself to be really slow as your body wakes up in its own time. Don’t expect yourself to be able to rush out of bed immediately after you open your eyes.
2. Don’t resist your fatigue
The all-consuming exhaustion that you experience in the morning can feel really scary. Also, there might be a lot of heavy and difficult emotions that accompany your morning fatigue and it’s only natural to want to push them away. All of this, however, creates additional stress and tension that further drains you.
So when you wake up in the morning and find yourself in a sleepy haze that doesn’t go away, try not to resist this haze. Consciously breathe through it. Observe the sensation of heaviness and weakness in your body as you continue to focus on your breath. It can be very uncomfortable at first, but as you continue doing it and become less judging, the intensity of the unpleasant sensations will eventually decrease. It does require trust and patience though.
You can also try this 8-mins-long guided breathing exercise to help you slowly navigate your way from sleepiness and fatigue to the state of wakefulness and alertness using the power of your own breath:
3. Add mindful movement to your waking-up process
“Fatigue and pain symptoms can increase, and yet your body is made for movement.” – says Rabea Klatt, a yoga and qigong instructor that works with chronic pain and fatigue.
“Movement not only brings blood flow into different parts of our body, into our organs, muscle and tendons, it also keeps your fascia hydrated and changes the biochemistry of the body.”
Elaine Oyang and Rabea Klatt, two experienced and qualified teachers that specialise in chronic fatigue and chronic pain issues, designed these easy movement practices to mobilise the whole body and remove stagnation in the morning.
So choose the practices that make you feel good, adapt the length to intensity to your needs, and treat them as part of your waking-up ritual!
Gentle movement for morning fatigue by Elaine Oyang, a certified yoga therapist based in San Francisco, California:
Both Bed Yoga for Extreme Fatigue and Pain and the Intuitive Movement Practice are designed for those mornings or days when getting out of bed seems like an impossible task. In both videos, slow, mindful movements are incorporated to gently mobilize the body without bringing more pain or fatigue.
Bed yoga – 12 mins
The Bed Yoga practice is different from the Intuitive Movement practice in the way that there is a structure in the sequence.
We start off with a breathing practice by inhaling on a count of 4, and exhaling on a count of 4 to help regulate your nervous system. Inhales are usually associated with the rise of the sympathetic nervous response (fight-or-flight), and exhales are associated with the rise of the parasympathetic nervous response (rest-and-relax). Therefore, by keeping your inhales and exhales equal in ratio, you are bringing your nervous system back into balance, whether it was previously too up-regulated or too down-regulated.
The mindful breathing will also help oxygenate and circulate your blood to bring in some more energy for your mornings.
The practice is followed by a series of movement that starts from your feet, moves up through your legs, and to your torso and neck to gently bring your energy upwards. This practice specifically helps mobilize larger areas in your body that tend to feel more tight, tense, and stagnant, such as your legs, low back, and upper back.
Intuitive movement – 15 mins
The Intuitive Movement Practice is inspired by one of my clients with a chronic illness that renders her completely bed-ridden on some days. It starts off with a guided body scan to bring awareness, warmth, and circulation for her entire body, followed by movements that feels “intuitively” good for her.
Since any kind of mechanized movements seemed to aggravate her symptoms, I asked her to simply start moving one body part at a time, starting from areas close to the center of her body, and gradually work her way outwards for fuller expansions (e.g., gently move the right shoulder first, then the right upper arm, then the right forearm, then the right hand, then the entire right arm and hand). This practice allowed her to feel safe and in control to move in ways that she knows won’t bring her more pain or depletion.
The guided practice in this video is more “systemized,” but feel free to use this as a template, and explore for yourself: “Where in my body doesn’t hurt right now? Can I breathe and move just that little part for a few rounds?” Repeat this inquiry, starting with small movements, until you feel more able to expand into a fuller version of the movements.
Gentle movement for morning fatigue by Rabea Klatt, a yoga and qigong instructor and classical homeopath based in northern Germany:
I always tell my clients that movement is one of the key principles in getting better and should be practiced daily. And the secret is, it’s not just any kind of movement.
So why not turn your waking-up process into your morning movement routine?
Stretching/ pandiculation – 20 mins
While you are still lying in your bed, let’s start with the tiniest movement possible – breathing. And you only need to add a little extra to it, mindfulness and pandiculation.
Compared to stretching as a passive action, pandiculation is an active stretching while adding a yawning to it. You can pandiculate, actively stretch and yawn, expand, take your hands and arms over your head – make yourself as tall as you can. Imagine your favorite pet waking up and giving itself a good full body stretch.
With pandiculation, we actively contract muscles, slowly lengthen them and then completely relax them. It not only wakes up our sleepy muscles, but it also makes you feel good. Muscles often feel stiff and tight from the lack of movement during the night. Also, the stiff feeling you have in the morning is the solidifying of your tissue (the fascia which creates the interface of our muscles). It stops the interfaces from gliding onto each other. It starts adding up as a kind of glue, slowly hardening when not being moved. By moving and pandiculating you not only melt that glue, but you also hydrate the connective tissue, making the interfaces gliding again.
(Read more about pandiculation and its benefits.)
Tapping and self-massage
In the tapping part of this movement routine you will need your fingers and hands. You can gently tap your head and face with your fingertips.
The tapping will help you get in contact with your body. It gently stimulates the body’s blood, lymph, energy flow and some of the body’s acupuncture points located on the head and face.
Other amazing health effects of tapping and self-massage are desensitizing of the skin, by removing stagnation in certain areas of the skin and promoting smooth blood flow. And it effectively helps us to bring down the energy from the head towards the feet – giving a feeling of being grounded. It warms the body, makes us feel alive through the movement of energy in the body.
It also gives us a feeling of being complete – feeling the whole body instead of just one part which usually feels painful. It’s great as short sequence after getting out of bed or even when you’re still in bed before getting up.
You can also check Rabea’s Grounding Exercise for more tapping and self-massage.
Learn more about Rabea and her work (both in English and German) by visiting her website, blog dedicated to chronic fatigue and chronic pain and her YouTube channel.