Chronic illness and the need to pace yourself
In my previous post “The need to pace yourself if you have a chronic illness“ we looked at:
- Why, if we don’t learn to pace ourselves, we’ll crash and burn
- Types of chronic illness; both mental and physical
- Where we might be going wrong
- Chronic illness and the Spoon Theory and
- The Push-crash Cycle
Moving on to understanding HOW we can pace ourselves
My youngest son is a Physiotherapist and, since I started this post last Monday and have been unable to finish it, we’ve talked a lot about understanding our limits.
He reminded me that pushing myself means more pain, yet avoiding any activity at all will also lead to more pain. He explained how pacing myself will help me to stay active, and how I’ll be able to get the things I love doing (or need to do) done with minimal pain.
We looked at how using the paced approach will give me a way to break down everyday activities and exercise into smaller bits; it means doing little bits often, then resting.
He’s suggested 10 minutes of rest after 10-15 minutes of activity to get my heart rate back down. I’ll still be able to get things done, albeit a little more slowly, but this way I’m neither overdoing nor underdoing. I’ll be stopping the push-crash cycle that can take me days to recover.
Essentially, I’ll be using a Spoon (unit of energy) then getting one back during my resting period, so I don’t crash before I even get to noon! Because I love visualisation I’m able to see my spoonful of energy going down with any activity, and back up after resting.
You might have another way of seeing your spoon? And you might find the above information given by a Physiotherapist useful too.
What you can do to pace yourself
I’ll use my 10 minutes of rest to do some mindfulness, stretching or more visualisation, after which I feel rested and relaxed.
Watching t.v. or reading a book, or even writing down the chores I’ve remembered is a no-no! That doesn’t help (me).
And that’s where I was going wrong. I understand now that I need to switch off completely; give my thinking brain a rest! However, if you find reading or watching a film restful, then you can continue to use your rest period that way.
Ways you can get back some of the energy you’ve used to minimize symptoms and improve your quality of life:
- Organisation is key in pacing, and it helps me feel grounded. Being disorganised can create chaos for me.
- List all your tasks, chores, appointments, exercise (daily/weekly) then separate them into has to be done and can-wait til…………….
- Delegate where possible — is there someone else that can do the task?
- Be mindful of each task as you’re completing it, that way you’re focusing on that one thing alone and not leaping to the next task.
- Self-care — and this doesn’t have to mean bubble baths and candles, but take that relaxing bubble bath anyway. Just simple things like remembering to brush your teeth and enjoying that lovely clean taste will slow down the pace.
- Be mindful when you’re eating. Turn the t.v. or music off. Chew your food and enjoy the different tastes and textures.
- Do some breathing exercises, mindfulness or visualisation. You’ll also find heaps of these exercises on the internet ad Youtube.
- Play your favourite track and really listen to it, enjoy the music and the lyrics; while you take time to breathe.
- Spend some time with nature; whether it’s in your own garden or out in a local park. World Mental Health week (10th – 16th May) has now passed but their theme 2021 was Spending time with nature. The Mental Health Foundation wrote how “research showed going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies and 45% of us reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health.“
‘There is something to be wondered at in all of Nature’Aristotle
- Go for a walk round one of your favourite parks, by the river or the coast; just amble and listen out for the birds, take a look at the flowers and greenery.
- You might enjoy cooking or baking — it’s something I love but I still have to be mindful of the stress it can create, so I’ll rest as my pots simmer.
- Call or visit a supportive friend, the one who wants nothing more from you than a warm chat — not Auntie Joannie who constantly whines, saps your energy and always asks favours of you.
- Do some stretching out on your sofa, bed or floor, and breathe…….
- Spend time with a pet — in or outdoors.
- Read a lighthearted book, blog, magazine; not something that gets you wound up or takes any energy.
- Do some form of exercise, whether it’s indoors or out. Exercise is well known to be an antidote to depression and many other mental health disorders.
You’ll have your own list of tasks or chores and various ways of relaxing; having some downtime. But you must remember to rest after each activity!
Over to you
Are you organised and manage to get through your to-do list? Or are you chaotic like me (the old me), dashing from one thing to another, pushing then burn? Do you manage to get some rest during your busy day or do you just soldier on?
Do you have any tips for others? I’d love to hear your thoughts and I’m happy to answer any questions.