Pacing is very important but perhaps one of the things that we struggle with the most. Pacing simply means getting the balance of activity and rest right but it is easier to say than actually do. Many of us fall into one of two categories: The ‘Boom or Busters’ and the ‘I Can’t Do That-ers’
Boom or Bust: You know how it works. You wake up and you think, actually today I feel quite good, so you start on a long list of things you have been wanting to do. By lunchtime, you are exhausted and in pain, your symptoms are flaring and you need to spend the rest of the day resting.
I Can’t Do That: You gradually do less and less and it seems to take longer to recover the less you do. You become increasingly housebound and feel isolated and miserable.
Pacing is really all about timing. You need to work out how long you can do an activity before you start to feel pain or your symptoms flare. It’s no good doing something until you are in a lot of pain/flare. You need to find the tipping point and stop then. Take an activity that you want to do and decide how long you can do it. For example, a trip to the shops. You work out that you can manage fifteen minutes of activity before you need to rest. When that fifteen minutes is up, sit down and rest, even if you are not in pain. Don’t be tempted to push yourself a little bit as you will go into the pain/flare zone and your shopping trip will be at an end. By listening to your body like this, you will be surprised by how much more you can do and achieve in the course of a day.
Spread your activity out over the course of the day, with planned rest between each section. Don’t say ‘I’ll do everything in the morning and rest in the afternoon’ as the temptation is to push too hard and end up in a ‘boom or bust’ situation. Write up a detailed time table for the day and reward yourself if you stick to it.
If you do this, you will find that you are gradually able to do more things as you will have a lot less pain/flare.
If you are in the ‘I can’t do that’ group, work out how long you can do an activity in the same way. Say you want to do a craft but haven’t felt able to up to now. Start with just a few minutes of the craft and then rest. The next day, see if you can manage a little longer and so on until you know exactly where the ‘tipping point’ is. You will be surprised to find that you can do more than you think you can.
Some days, we have more energy than others but don’t be tempted to push yourself on those days. Stick to your planned activity schedule but maybe allow a few more minutes of activity before rest. If you know that you have something big coming up, a family wedding or a night out with friends, plan in advance so that you can factor in rest time and make sure that family and friends understand what you need.
The Spoon Theory
Perhaps the most famous description of fluctuating energy levels and pacing for people who are chronically ill. Read it here.
Here are some useful links about pacing: