Pacing tips for chronic illness

I wrote a few articles on this topic recently:

Enhancing our pacing game

Chronic illness and the art of pacing

Pacing is exceptionally hard in the fast-paced society we live in that demands far more than we can give. And yet we try. And then our bodies punish us for it. Society is the hare just running as fast as it can with little care about wellbeing. We are the tortoise, slow and steady and we have to be concerned with our wellbeing. Because things can get worse. So much worse when we consistently exceed our limits.

Pacing tips for chronic illness

Here are my personal tips for pacing with chronic illness

No multitasking-

Do not multitask ever. Studies have shown it isn’t good for healthy people. And it is worse for us. With brain fog and fatigue multi-tasking can be a massive problem. We forget important things. We get confused. So conquer one single task at a time. Focus on it only and then move onto the next.

Pace all the time

My psychologist called this Boom and Bust. When we do not pace, on our good days, it can lead to more than one bad day. Then we recover and, hey, another good day… and so it goes. We have to learn to pace our activities whether we feel good that day and certainly when we feel bad that day.

The ten-minute rule

So I got this from my mom to help me to be able to do housework, which is overwhelming when we are in a lot of pain and have fatigue. The ten-minute rule is always do just 10 minutes of housekeeping. From a little dusting. To doing the dishes. Whatever it is. Because we need to conserve energy on bad days, but we also want to feel productive. And of course, we can do more on good days, as long as we follow the pacing rule on good days. Anyway, I follow this all the time now since this vestibular disorder has made life so difficult. I just do ten minutes of cleaning. And then I rest.

The 50% rule

Think about all the things you want to do that day and then do 50% of them only. We often feel we have more energy and productivity in us that we actually do. Think about useable hours. We only have a certain amount of useable hours in the day, which is less than everyone else and on bad days can be much, much less. So always do less than you think you can and think about the useable hours you have on that day with your current state of being.

Say no

We have to learn when to just say no even if we think we are disappointing our friends and family. We feel obliged to go to the event or do the activity, but really we should never push our limits. Like the day we built a fence. We had some friends over to help. And I knew I couldn’t do it. But I could paint some boards. So I did. And I felt useful even though I couldn’t do the main task. And I have said no to numerous things, knowing my limits for that day. People understand. And on a good day, I do do things, with preparation and medication. Because we all know socializing is part of our wellbeing. And isolation can lead to a lot of negative feelings. Say no when you need to. Say yes when you can.

Rest and naps

Everything we do has a price to it. And I know when I do something I have to rest after. I know I need 2 naps a day to function. It is vital for me at this time in my health story. And I do not feel guilty about this. It is part of pacing. Knowing when to rest. But not too much rest. Like oversleeping and then resting most of the day can make us very lethargic. We have to do a little every day. That lethargy from too much rest and oversleeping can make it impossible to function given our existing fatigue levels. Our sleep cycle when we do not work anymore can get extremely erratic. And it is important we try to keep it regulated, with medication and set bedtimes and wake times. I mean, sometimes we just need more sleep. But trust me when I say if we do it all the time out sleep pattern can just get worse and worse. Last time I was on a leave I would stay up to 4am and wouldn’t get up until 1 or 2pm. But then it got even worse where I couldn’t stay asleep so I could get up further messing with my sleep pattern. It is very tricky to handle. And I would be the same now, if not for the fact the dizziness I have gets much more severe at night and I cannot stay up past 11 pm or midnight at the latest. And I get up at 7 or 8 am. Which is bizarre because I was a night owl… and how my sleep cycle gets so out of whack without work.

Slow your activities

Just do things, like housekeeping, slower than you think you can. I call it being methodical and deliberate. Slow and steady wins the race.

Conserve energy for the things that are important to you

Our wellbeing is very important and part of that is being able to do the things that are important to us. Like my writing. Or playing with your kids. So we need to conserve some of our usable hours for things we want to do. And not just Need to do.

Increase activity over time

When you understand your baseline fatigue and baseline pain you can carefully, gently, over weeks increase your activities to hopefully extend our useable hours. I can’t do that right now, it is all about recovery for me right now. But I did this when I could exercise. I started out being able to exercise a few minutes, on my stationary bike, then ten… and minute by minute I got up to 20 minutes. We want the very best quality of life possible with our health and part of that is slowly progressing in what we can do, with help from our medical professionals of course. I couldn’t exercise at all without pain medication for example, and even then to begin with and for months it was excessively painful. When we know where we are we can make small, attainable goals for the future. Like getting out more. Or a little more housekeeping a day. Or maybe fewer naps, in my case, would be a future goal. This is about gently, and carefully nudging our existing limits. Never to the point of exceeding them, just very slow 1% increases in an area you want to work on.

And those are my personal tips on pacing. And still, it is hard. Limits change every single day. Usable hours change every single day. Sometimes we exceed our limits and there will be consequences. Sometimes we Want to exceed out limits for the sake of doing something we really want to do and ensure we have recovery time after. And sometimes there are really bad days. And we can’t do anything. There will be those. And those are the days for whatever self-care works for you. No matter how well you pace… we will have really bad days.

Some other posts to check out:

Sleep Hygiene and insomnia

Getting through the high intensity pain flares

Self-care: when you are in a funk

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

** I am sure glad I have Grammarly on here because I am too dizzy to type straight and it caught and inconceivable amount of errors. But if there are more, please forgive me, I am not at my best these days**

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4 comments

  1. These are great tips. One thing i over do on is website work and blogging. I get in a zone and son hours have gone by. I had to set up an alarm to remind me to eat lunch.

    Liked by 1 person

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