Yesterday I talked about what pacing was and today I am going to share my tips on how I pace and prevent myself from over doing it; something I was very guilty of doing previously. When it feels as though you have a million and one things to do it is easy to end up doing too much. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two things that you need to address in order to pace yourself successfully.
The first is that feeling of needing to do everything. You know, that little voice in your head that tells you that have all these things that you need to do? The one that won’t give up and will make you stress out and feel guilty until you tick everything off your to-do list?
I have learned to shut that little voice up and have changed my priorities and expectations. Nothing and I mean nothing, is more important than your own health. Things can wait. I’ve realised it’s not the end of the world if I don’t do things immediately and sometimes it doesn’t matter if they don’t get done at all.
Secondly, I needed to find a way to stop myself from getting carried away. I’d start a task and would have to keep on going until it was finished. Again, a lot of this has to do with changing my expectations but I also had to find a way to remind myself to stop before I pushed myself towards (and past) breaking point.
I’ve learned a few useful tips for successful pacing and today I will share them in the hope they help you too. Here are my 10 top tips for successful pacing:
01. Write Down Everything That You Need To Do
Part of the reason I felt the need to do everything immediately was because I worried that I would forget to do it. I would also stress myself out thinking about “all the things I needed to do”. Writing down a to-do list not only helps me to remember everything but it also makes me feel more in control and this, in turn, helps to alleviate stress.
02. Prioritise Your To-Do List
Once I have my to-do list in writing (usually on my iPhone), it is easy to see everything that I need to do and it instantly feels more manageable. I can then prioritise what needs to be done first and what can wait.
03. Ask For Help
Before I do anything myself, I will see if there is anything on my list that I can ask for help with. I used to try and be superwoman and do absolutely everything by myself. Though I did it all, I also felt terrible for doing so and my fibromyalgia would flare as a result.
I no longer do this to myself and I ask for help. I am incredibly lucky that I receive a lot of help from my husband and my mum. I am so appreciative because their help means I am able to feel as well as I possibly can. Asking for help can be daunting and embarrassing but trust me when I say people want to help you when they can.
04. Choose One Task Per Day
I will decide what task on my to-do list is a priority and will choose only the top one to work on completing each day. I will even have a think about whether I can achieve it in one day and if not, I’ll break it up over two or more.
Take my mum’s birthday present for example. I made her an iPad sleeve, which you can see here. On day one I ironed and cut out all my fabric. On day two I quilted the fabric. On day three I sewed it all together. On day four I pressed it and sewed on the finishing details.
I could have done it all in one day but I would have felt exhausted and very sore from doing so because my body can’t handle that much sewing at one time. Even splitting it up as I did, I only did 10 minutes of sewing at a time before taking a break.
05. Question If You Need To Forgo Doing Something Else
If a task is particularly tiring, even when you limit yourself to doing it for a short duration, you may need to ask yourself if there is something else you can forgo doing. We only have limited energy resources each day after all. For example, I might decide not to do my usual daily walk so that I have more energy to invest in another task.
06. Set A Timer During Tasks
Limit yourself to only doing something for a set period of time and stick to it. This will be individual (some will be able to do more than others) and task-dependent but 10 minutes is a good place to start. Using a timer stops you from getting carried away and is an auditory reminder to take a break. If you simply use a clock or watch, it is easy for time to run on without you realising.
07. Time Rest Too
At the moment I will do 10 minutes work and then set my timer for 20 minutes of rest. I err towards doing more rest than work because of where I am health-wise at the moment. Setting a timer ensures that I rest for that amount of time because another wise I will get up after a few minutes and go back to what I was doing.
08. Listen To Your Body & Stop At The First Sign You Need To
Becoming attuned to your body is so important. You will begin to learn and pick up on little signs that are your cue to stop what you are doing. I can physically feel myself becoming heavier and I begin to lose concentration. This is when I need to stop.
If I don’t, I will progressively become more exhausted, achy, nauseous, my head feels ‘full and foggy’ and starts to throb and I also become restless and irritable. If I reach this point I have done too much and will ‘pay for it’.
09. Appreciate The Small Achievements
Instead of thinking about what you still need to do, think about how amazing it is that you have managed to achieve a small step towards reaching your overall goal. It’s all about changing and managing expectations and you will be much happier by looking at the positives than putting yourself down because of unattainable high standards.
This becomes easier to do when you start to achieve your goals and fell well doing so. When you feel the benefits of pacing it makes it all the more worth it.
10. Build Up Slowly
The huge benefit of pacing is that when you get it right you will begin to feel better. It is important to resist the temptation to do too much. You need to have discipline and keep on using all of the above techniques, even when you suddenly have a day where you feel better.
When you start to have more good days than bad, that’s the point when you can start to do a little more. Make anything extra that you do quantifiable though. For example, do an extra 5 minutes only. It might feel frustrating when you want to do more than this but it will prevent you crashing and undoing all of your hard work.
What If I Don’t Feel Better From Doing All Of This
The unfortunate answer is that you are probably still doing too much. Your life is unbalanced and needs to include more rest and you may benefit from doing even less until your body is stronger. I can’t tell you how to specifically go about that. You are the only person who knows that answer.
It’s down to you as to whether you think it is worth slowing down even more. What I do know is that it is possible to live with minimal symptoms and for me, anything that helps me to achieve this is worth doing.
What are your pacing tips? Please share in the comments below.