If you were to ask me what the most important thing you have knowingly to do as someone who lives with Fibromyalgia, I would say pacing yourself. This is something I still struggle with over three years later. Let me clarify, pacing yourself is a conscious action. I am not comparing decision-making processes with suffering pain or debilitating exhaustion. Fibro thrusts these symptoms on you and you have little control over what will happen when. The thing you must take control of is how you will live your life when Fibro loosens it’s grip.
The Importance of Pacing Yourself
I have mentioned pacing yourself in several posts before, in last week’s post the men I interviewed also stated it was necessary. I thought it was important enough to have its own article and as we are all making plans for the New Year now seems the perfect time to address it.
When you are in pain or exhausted for much of the time, the natural thing you do is feel guilty about anything you believe you should do, when you are not well enough to do it. Subconsciously you may even make lists of chores to do as soon as you feel a little better. For most of us in the Western World having a work ethic is something to be proud of, or even expected of us. It is this work ethic that drives us to do all that we do.
Too much activity
Problems occur when as soon as we felt better we threw ourselves into all the activities in our conscious or unconscious lists. When a person with a normal level of health gets sick, they can afford to give themselves a short recovery period. This time allows them to get back to optimum health. The problem when you have Fibromyalgia or other chronic illnesses is that as you recover from one bad bout, the next one may be around the corner. It is this knowledge that causes you to panic and throw yourself into everything that needs doing. If we step back from the situation and look at it logically, trying to do a million and one things with weakened physical resources is a recipe for disaster and will probably end up flaring up your symptoms again.
Dealing with the Guilt
The first, and one of the most important things to do is to resolve the guilt you may be feeling. You did not request to develop Fibromyalgia, who would for heaven’s sake. If other people are trying to heap guilt upon you, help them find all the wealth of information at the Fibro Bloggers Directory. Most hate behaviour comes from ignorance. By helping to educate your surrounding people, you are actively helping them to support you better. If there are individuals in your life who refuse to let you educate them, you need ultimately to decide if they still have a place in your life. As Zoe Sugg said, people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you develop Fibro, you enter a new season. Sometimes sadly people will drift away of their own accord, other, sometimes toxic, people may need a gentle push.
How to Pace Yourself
If a sudden change in your health is new to you the term pacing yourself may be alien. Or, more precisely, not the term but how to execute it. So I thought I would share with you how I plan my days for any health state. As a techy it revolves around an app, in this case Todoist. In a previous post I summarized Todist with screenshots. So if you are not familiar with the app I suggest you have a look through that post now and then return here.
Pacing myself with Todoist
When I wrote the post past year, I was halfway through the Professional Level of Karma, now I am two-thirds of the way through the Master level. So I must do something well!My project view has not really changed in the last year but I have developed my labels further. I built the new principals around pacing myself as I continue to better understand and fine tune the art.
Using labels for health levels
Previously, all tasks that didn’t have a specific date were all filled under gaining karma. Although this is still true because anything I tick off will add karma, it left me with a long list of possibilities. I have now fine tuned these and I am left with some really clear options.
Three clear options to pace myself
As you can see once I have dealt with anything in the today folder (and if it is a bad day, I can just bump anything to the next day) I have three clear options: Energy, Recovery and Flare.
The Flare folder contains things like looking through a magazine (I have mountains to go through as I reduce them), reading my book, watch an episode of a program on TV or Netflix. These are all things I can do unless I am bad and if that is the case I flip the setting to holiday mode and forget about everything until I’m managing better, without losing and of my Karma points.
I use the recovery level most of the time. These are all activities I can do without taxing myself particularly. There are things like doing adult colouring, playing a game on the computer, completing a Skillshare course, working on the family tree or having a shower.
The energy list contains chores such as doing a load of washing (which involves carrying it down two flights of stairs then coming back up). Although I can do these things I would not attempt them in a flare-up and I would only consider it in recovery periods (at least a week after a flare-up and if I feel a flare-up brewing) if it was desperate. I am fortunate to have a husband who has done his homework and understands the importance of pacing yourself and does more than his fair share as necessary.
Learning to pace myself
Before I got to grips with how important pacing yourself is, I often found I would bounce from one flare-up into another and they often lasted over a week. Back in 2017 things came to a head when I had a massive triple flare-up which lasted over three weeks. Each time I thought I was improving I would hit the rocks again. A lot of this was to do with stress (which is lethal when you have Fibro) and resulted in me asking my employer to dismiss me, read more about this here. Removing the stress of the job helped considerably, but I still reverted to the habit of trying to do too much when I felt well. This over exertion meant flare-ups often lasted for a week or more still.
The Results of Pacing Myself
Since I have got to grips with pacing myself life has been considerably easier. I still have foul days when I grab my phone, switch my Karma off and, well try to sleep through it all. But they are just days. A year ago I may have had a full week dealing with a flare-up now I am far more likely to have a bad day and then be in recovery mode for a week. This has helped my productivity no end both as a blogger and a genealogist and a crafter. Most of the time I feel I have a purpose now.
What do you suggest?
Do you have any killer tips for helping to pace yourself? If so, I’d love you to leave one in the comments below. Perhaps you are really struggling with pacing yourself? Again ask a question below or contact me on any of my social media channels.
Until next time,