What is Energy Conservation?
Energy Conservation means looking at your daily routines to find ways to:
- reduce the amount of effort required to perform certain tasks,
- eliminate some tasks and
- plan in rest.
Think of energy like money: You only have a so much, so think carefully about how you are going to use it!
The application of energy conserving techniques aims to improve quality of life by enabling participation in and completion of activities of daily living.
Energy Conservation is a multi-layered skill that offers many direct benefits:
- preserving physical function
- promoting wellness
- maintaining a sense of personal efficacy
Energy Conservation for Chronic Respiratory conditions:
Chronic Respiratory conditions by their nature have a significant effect on energy levels. With lowered energy, achieving day to day tasks can become very difficult or impossible.
People with chronic respiratory conditions experience reduced lung function which limits available energy and functional capacity. They also experience shortness of breath which can be frightening. This fear can further aggravate shortness of breath even when the slightest exertion is attempted.
The use of energy conservation techniques can preserve energy for use in a staggered way throughout the day.
Energy conservation techniques include coordinated breathing and proper body mechanics to help to relieve shortness of breath and in turn will enhance the ability to cope with daily activities.
Occupational Therapists can teach simple strategies to enable energy conservation. This means more energy for you for longer in your day, and in your week. You can regain the satisfaction of completing tasks that are important to you.
Some essential tips:
- Change: Energy Conservation is a skill that has to be learned. The learner needs to be willing to enact change. People are creatures of habit and change can be difficult to implement but it is essential if these techniques are to work.
- The body: In order to benefit from Energy Conservation techniques, one must be in touch with their body. They must understand its limitations and be aware of indicators such as muscle tension, heart rate, breathing rate and emotions.
- Rest: An essential aspect of Energy Conservation is rest. Rest allows the body to rebuild itself. Resting must be an active choice. That is, it must be chosen as an activity where the body is allowed to be still. (Never as a side effect of being exhausted!)
- Help: Energy Conservation may require help from others. If you are typically not good at asking for help, now is the time to learn!
Principles of Energy Conservation
The rationale behind energy conservation is to reduce unnecessary energy expenditure in the body. There are several major principles which can be incorporated into daily activities. These principles are meant to be internalised into daily habits.
Organise your daily routine and activities and plan ahead:
- Plan a daily activity schedule that alternates heavy and light tasks.
- Eliminate unnecessary steps of a task when possible.
- Gather and arrange supplies or tools for daily activities before start.
- Plan sufficient rest after completing a task and before moving onto the next one.
Use appropriate tools to simplify activities
- Use of modern household utensils or electric appliances to save energy, g. non-stick kitchen wares, electric can opener, microwave etc.
- Use assistive devices such as long handled reachers to minimize the need to bend over when retrieving objects from the floor or a shower chair to sit when washing.
- Use wheeled trolleys to assist pushing and carrying heavy object
Work with proper pacing
- Allow ample time to finish an activity, keep a slow and steady pace and don’t rush.
- Listen to your body messages, rest before you are exhausted.
Avoid tiring and awkward posture that may impair breathing
- Sit down for your activities whenever possible.
- Avoid tasks that require prolonged standing, squatting or stooping.
- Avoid raising your arms too high above shoulder level.
Use of proper body mechanics
- Keep your body straight while performing a task, poor posture consumes more energy.
- Keep your arms straight and close to your body while carrying objects and spread the load between both arms at the same time.
- Support your elbows on table or a firm surface while performing a task to avoid positions that make you tired, g. during shaving, peeling vegetables.
How can Occupational Therapists help
An Occupational Therapist can assess your everyday activities, in your home to determine which of the above principles can be applied, and how they can be applied for you.
This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg for Energy Conservation, but starting with these on your own is a great place to start.
Give yourself four weeks of dedicated change and notice the difference!
Occupational Therapy – Information provided by DOTS Occupational Therapy Services
Written by Beth Dermer, Principal Occupational Therapist.