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Recovering from illness and conserving energy

Conserving energy

Relevant points for recovering after an illness.

These techniques help people with long-term conditions and those recovering from illnesses. In a survey of people with long-term conditions, most said that they used these techniques to conserve energy and help manage their fatigue. (Royal College of Occupational Therapists 2020)

When recovering from an illness, you are likely to have less energy and feel tired after doing even a simple task. Putting on your shoes or socks can feel like hard work.

To help you conserve your energy throughout the day and over the week adopt the 3Ps principle. (Pace, Plan and Prioritise)


Pacing yourself will help you have enough energy to complete a task or activity.  It you work on a task until you are exhausted you will need longer to recover. Work until you are tired but not exhausted. For example, climb up five steps of your stairs, have a short rest of 30 seconds and then carry on with another five steps. 


Plan the activities that you want and need to do on a daily and weekly basis.  Develop a plan for how you can spread them out so that you spread them out throughout the day.  If gardening, laundry, food shopping are tiring activities do them on different days and have a rest day in between.

Plan how you will carry out the activity and collect all the things that you will need together before you start.  For example, get out and prepare all the ingredients, utensils and kitchen weighing scales before you start cooking a meal or cake. This will save you the energy of bending down into cupboards and lifting and carrying articles once you have started your cooking.

Utilise products which may help so that you minimise bending, stretching, and lifting.  For example, using a long handled mop to clean the floor rather than bending down with a cloth or brush.

Top tips for energy conservation

Don’t hold your breath during any task

Try to avoid pulling, lifting, bending, reaching, and twisting if possible

Push or slide items as much as possible, instead of lifting them

Bend with your knees rather than from your waist


Some daily activities are necessary, but other things aren’t.  We sometimes build in extra activities out of habit or a desire to not let our standards slip in the home.  This can lead to anxiety and extra pressure when we are recovering from an illness and need to prioritise our recovery.

A couple of questions when prioritising are what do I need to do today and what do I want to today?

If all of our energy is used on the activities that are needed to be done then we are not able to do the things that we want to do.  The activities that we choose to do are often the ones that are uplifting to our mental health and wellbeing.  Try and keep a balance between “need to do” and “want to do” activities.  It may be better to put a task off until another day and conserve some energy for some leisure activity.  It may also be possible to ask someone else to do something for you.  People are often pleased to be able to help and feel that they can help with recovery.


General tips for carrying out daily activities

Sit down where possible, for example cleaning teeth and washing your face

Sit in the shower if possible and use long handled equipment to reach your feet and back. Click HERE for bath and shower seat. Click HERE for long handled sponges.

Have rests between activities

Keep all the things that you will need in the same place, be organised and tidy

Use long-handled equipment such as a long handled sponge or long handled shoe horn

Use long handled mops for cleaning the floor, not bending down to reach the floor

Spread the activities out throughout the week, for example vacuum a different room each day