Having fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) doesn’t mean you no longer have things to do. Learning how to pace yourself will give you the tools to work within your individual limits and avoid crashes.
In today’s blog post, you’ll learn:
- Why pacing is important for people with fibromyalgia
- How to pace yourself
- Specific ways to improve your pacing
Let’s get started!
Why Is Pacing Important for People With Fibromyalgia?
If you have fibromyalgia, you already know that your daily routine can take a ton of energy.
When you’re at a low point, those tasks take up even more of your limited energy.
On good days, you might be tempted to push yourself. You want to get everything done while you have the energy. You may spend your whole day running around trying to take care of all the tasks that have been waiting.
When you feel your symptoms flaring up, instead of backing off, it’s common to try to push through—before you literally can’t do anymore.
Unfortunately, pushing yourself just makes things worse in the long run.
One good day turns into several days, or even a week, where you can’t do anything. This is called the push-crash cycle, and sufferers of FMS and ME/CFS are all too familiar with it.
So how do you avoid the crash? You pace yourself.
How to Pace Yourself & Improve Your Symptoms
When you understand how to pace yourself, you’re less likely to accidentally fall into the push-crash cycle. You’ll know how to work within your limits to keep yourself feeling healthier.
Get to Know Your Body
You know your body best. In order to pace yourself, you need to have a clear sense of your own limits.
One of the best ways to understand how different activities or foods affect your body is to use a journal (like this super helpful symptom journal).
You want to find answers to these questions:
- How much physical activity can your body handle at a time?
- How much mental activity can you handle at a time?
- What activities take the most energy?
- What times of day do you feel most energetic?
- What symptoms appear as early warning signs to alert you you’re reaching your limit?
Knowing your body is the first step in pacing yourself because it allows you to recognize your limits.
Create A Well-Balanced Schedule With Breaks
Creating a schedule that accounts for the time you need to rest will help you pace yourself.
Breaks are the most important part of your schedule!
While managing your symptoms can feel like a marathon, your working style should be more like a sprint. Work for a little while, rest, and then work again.
The duration of your activities and rest times depends on your body’s limits. Whatever amount of time you think you can handle, start with a shorter working period. Rest for at least 15 minutes between activity sprints.
One great tip is to set alarms to make sure you don’t accidentally overexert yourself.
Finding the right balance takes time. But you can adjust as you figure out your own personal balance!
Scheduling rest isn’t just about having time to take short breaks. Use this time to really rest.
Maybe that means taking a nap or just lying down for a little while to give your body a break. Don’t use rest time to tackle minor tasks, like checking your email or reading.
Instead, give your mind the same break you’re giving your body.
Get Into a Routine
Creating a routine (and sticking to it!) will help you navigate even your foggiest brain days. A routine helps you finish all of your tasks and pace yourself at the same time.
Of course, ME/CFS isn’t always predictable.
A good day can turn suddenly, and the bad days can stretch on and on.
This can make establishing a routine difficult, but not impossible. Knowing that uncertainty is there just means you need to build flexibility into your routine.
Since you’ve spent time getting to know your body, you can figure out what your average energy is like.
Schedule your days to take up less energy than average. On good days you can work ahead a little bit.
After a few bad days, you can catch up slowly by prioritizing your tasks.
Start Prioritizing What’s Most Important
If you want to pace yourself successfully, you need to prioritize. Write out all of your tasks and then divide them into the following categories.
Your needs are at the top of your priority list. They cannot wait. At its most basic, this could be things like feeding yourself. It could also be a work task that absolutely needs to get done if you’re going to keep your job.
Your wants are things that you would love to do if you have the energy, but they’re not make-or-break you. It could be that you want to read that new book on your shelf or visit your friend.
Your “shoulds” are the things you feel like you have to do to satisfy someone other than yourself. Like maybe you feel like you should mow your lawn so your neighbors don’t complain.
You should always start by taking care of your needs. If you have the energy, you can tackle your wants. Your shoulds fall lowest on the priority list.
Even though they’re at the bottom of your list, shoulds can be the biggest source of guilt. You want to do them in order to please others. That’s totally human. By being open and honest about your limitations, you can alleviate guilt and adjust people’s expectations of you.
Learning how to pace yourself might mean changing up the way you do things on a daily basis. These changes will only help you to have more good days than bad. They will also give you the tools to bounce back after a stretch of low energy!