This week we launched our online fatigue management course. Research Network member Sarah Rees caught up with Dr Sarah Thomas, the researcher behind the course.
For those of us living with MS, fatigue is often the most debilitating symptom. It’s invisible, difficult to treat, and can make working a challenge. Worse, it can reduce quality of life by leaving little energy for fun.
Thank goodness then for people like Dr Sarah Thomas. She and her colleagues at Bournemouth University and Poole Hospital have spent almost a decade working on a programme called FACETS, designed to help those with MS better manage their fatigue.
Optimising your energy
Sarah explains: “When we started out, we saw there was a gap in the market for psychological support to help with fatigue. There are drugs available, but they don’t work for everyone and come with side effects. There was some evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy could help, so we started developing what has become FACETS.”
FACETS focuses on helping you to make lifestyle changes that optimise the energy available to you. The aim is to get you to think about how best to use your energy and what’s stopping you from making changes.
Part of the process involves recognising that it's better to manage fatigue than to fight it. “It can be challenging, but we encourage people to start small and make little changes, like understanding your fatigue triggers and recognising what your fatigue levels are,” says Sarah.
Being kind to yourself
The programme has also been important in helping people accept their MS fatigue, and give themselves permission to approach things differently. Sarah stresses that ‘it’s important that people are kind to themselves and give themselves permission to rest.’
She urges those with MS to make sure they aren’t just using up all their energy on work or chores. ‘You must leave energy for doing the things that matter to you and that you enjoy. Life has to be rewarding.’
Making a difference
What was initially a small project exploring psychological interventions for fatigue has mushroomed, much to Sarah’s delight: ‘When we started, I really didn’t envisage that this programme was going to get to where we are now. People have described FACETS as life-changing, allowing them to get their lives back. I think it’s worked because we’ve involved people with MS right the way through the process. We’re designing something that people want.’
While she acknowledges that there is ‘no magic wand for fatigue’, Sarah is confident that offering courses like FACETS right from diagnosis could make all the difference to those living with MS. And now she and her team have worked with us to create the online course, giving everyone the chance to access this valuable tool.