I had a few ideas in mind for this week’s blog post. I’ve been thinking about topics like “Travel and Fibro” or “Fibro and Relationships” And don’t get me wrong, I definitely still want to do write posts about those topics. They’re both important when it comes to living your best life with fibromyalgia. But this week, I’m going a little more off-the-cuff and writing about a topic that’s super relevant for me at the moment (and really all the time), and I’m sure for many, if not all, of you. This week I’m talking all about pacing!
So why is it particularly relevant for me right now? Well, I got a new full-time job! Luckily, it’s a desk job with a relatively flexible schedule, but it’s a huge adjustment for me. I went from unemployed, when I was just focusing on taking care of my health and finishing the last couple things to get my Master’s, to 40-50 hour weeks in an office. And that’s a HUGE shift in energy allotment. It’s required me to fully rethink my weekly routine, my activities, my relationships, all of it. It’s required me to start pacing every single day, every single week. And that’s totally fine with me because it’s helped me find balance and feel good most of the time.
What is Pacing?
What is pacing anyway? It’s a term I think we’re all familiar with, but maybe not in the context of living with fibromyalgia. I think Donna over at February Stars puts it really well by saying pacing is “doing a little at a time and breaking down tasks so they are simpler”. She’s also right in saying that, while that may seem simple and intuitive, it can be a lot harder than it seems.
I think this is because, before life with fibromyalgia, we’re so used to doing things a certain way, or doing a certain amount in a day, and when we reduce what we do in a day because of fibromyalgia, it may seem like a lot. It may seem like we’re not doing enough or not keeping up. But sometimes, we may still crash and end up in a flare.
I also think this is because we often compare ourselves to the “healthy” world. We hold our standards of productivity at the same level of people who aren’t living with fibromyalgia or other chronic diseases. And as much as we’d like to be normal and like to be treated like we’re healthy, the fact is, we sometimes have to adjust the way we do things to address our physical (and sometimes mental) limitations.
The First Steps
For me, and for many others out there, the first steps of figuring out your pace is giving yourself grace. Give yourself permission to do less, to let go. It’s okay to not be as productive as you once were. Your worth is NOT dependent on how much you get done or what you can do. You are worthy simply because you are you. Repeating this notion to yourself over and over again if your struggling with the idea of doing less, or feeling guilty for doing less, can be very helpful. And remember, if you work yourself into a flare, you’re going to be able to do a whole lot less while you recover.
While making sure you’re kind to yourself, allow yourself to listen to your body and mind. Mindfulness is a very powerful and important tool of pacing. It’s resting before getting too tired. It’s knowing when you can keep going. Mindfulness is key to making sure you don’t take it too far, or learning from it if you do. Listening to your body, and honouring what it tells you, is a key part of pacing.
A Few Tips
So that’s really the gist of pacing. It really does seem like a super simple concept, right? But the thing is, it’s SO individual, and every day is going to be different. Overall, however, there are a few ways you can definitely find some success with pacing.
- Get rid of the word “should”. It’s basically the worst, most guilt-laden word in the English language. It is literally motivation to do things based on the guilt you’d feel if you didn’t. But the thing is, most of those things you “should” be doing aren’t that important. So figure out what is essential and important to you, and prioritize those things. If you feel you’re able to do more once you’ve addressed those things without using all of your energy, prioritize what else serves you and use your energy accordingly. But don’t think you have to get every single thing on your “to-do list” done today, tomorrow, or even this week. Because I guarantee most of it can wait.
- Cut out the toxic people/activities. I know, I know. A lot easier said than done, right? Especially when those people are family members, coworkers, or people you have to deal with every day, or those activities are vital for living a functional life. I’m not saying just drop everyone and everything from your life. That would be ridiculous. What I am saying is be aware of how much energy you give to those people/activities. Don’t allow them to take up more than they deserve, because your energy is much too valuable for that. And if you do have to deal with these people/activities, try to prepare so that you can make sure they only take what you give them.
- Be patient. This is much easier said than done too, I know. But it’s something else that’s incredibly important. Be patient with the fact that things aren’t getting done as quickly as they used to or you’d like them to. Be patient with yourself when you do end up overdoing it and throw yourself into a flare. It will happen, especially as you start to figure out what works for you. When that does happen, give yourself the time to recover, then try again. Us fibro spoonies are nothing if not resilient, so keep trying and learn from your experiences. You will figure it out and it will get easier! And once you figure it out, you’ll be able to slowly build up to doing more and more without throwing yourself into a flare. So please, be patient. Pacing is worth it. I promise.
Do you have any experience with pacing? Let us know below!