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Pacing and Why it's Important

My life has been pretty packed lately, what with recording the audiobook for Aches, Pains, and Love: A Guide to Dating and Relationships for Those With Chronic Illness (coming out mid February!), having a busy life coaching and counselling practice, preparing for the book launch, and generally trying to keep up with every day living.

I’ve been overdoing it and need to get back to pacing myself better. In the spirit of self-care, today’s post is comprised of some excerpts about pacing from my upcoming book, Aches, Pains, and Love. I hope you enjoy it:

“Pacing? What’s pacing? Making sure I don’t overdo it? Oh yeah, I can do that, once I’ve finished my work, done my exercise, visited a friend, run errands, gone to the grocery store, and made dinner.

Does this sound familiar?

When I was younger, I was more than happy to take care of myself, as long as it was the last thing on my list. And pacing? No, that’s ok. I’ll just keep going until I’m exhausted. And then I’ll do it all again tomorrow, because I’m young, and other people are doing it, so why shouldn’t I be able to? Why indeed.

It took me seven years to finally give it up, and only because my body quit, said, “No more!” I was hitting 50/10 on the pain scale. I was in agony 24/7. I had zero energy. I wasn’t sleeping at all. It took all I had to climb the stairs to the kitchen. I was horribly depressed and wanted to die. That was my rock bottom.

Please don’t hit rock bottom before you slow down and put yourself first. Rest now. Rest frequently. Don’t overdo it. You don’t need to be a martyr. This is not the sword to die on. Listen to your body now, not seven years from now.

Pacing isn’t glamorous, fun, or exciting, but it works. And if you pace yourself now, you will be able to experience more glamour, fun, and excitement in your life in the long term.

According to Dr. Arseneau and Mara Shnay’s Living with ME/CFS, FM and Related Disorders Program Manual, pacing is about “living according to a plan rather than in reaction to symptoms.” The plan is how you set up your day. It includes the boundaries you establish around time and place, your set mealtimes, bedtime, wake-up time, and how much activity you do in a day. Pacing ensures that you don’t just keep going until you feel symptoms or until symptoms worsen. It means you go for an allotted amount of time that you know won’t trigger or exacerbate symptoms. It’s about being consistent in both activity and rest.

Pacing requires you to do some realistic planning. To quote Dr. Arseneau, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Pacing makes your life easier. You end up with less stress and more energy. Making a plan ensures predictability, and predictability reduces relapses and stress.

One rule I like to follow is to think about how much I can do in a day, and then do half, because I know I tend to push myself too much. Now that I’m feeling better, I often do three-quarters of what I think I can reasonably do in a day, but never more than that.”

And now it’s time for me to take my own advice. See you Wednesday!

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