The Importance of Pacing and Fibromyalgia
Pacing is possibly your greatest ally in avoiding the roller coaster of pain and fatigue that is often associated with Fibromyalgia. Pacing is simply the act of learning your limits and working with them.
Instead of trying to complete large tasks, you focus on small tasks, and celebrate your accomplishments (as small as they may be).
Often on good days we will do as much as we feel our bodies will allow, only to pay for it the next day.
By learning the importance of pacing and Fibromyalgia; learning to slow down and work in small chunks, we can actually preserve our energy and avoid the painful crash (Friedberg, Williams, & Collinge, 2012).
5 Steps for Pacing with Fibromyalgia
1 . Create a to-do list that has the tasks you want to complete.
Once you’ve written down all the tasks you want to do, ask yourself if you personally need to do each of those tasks.
Can you possibly delegate the task to someone else? Or, perhaps the task doesn’t really need to be done at all.
If you decide that you must do the task, ask yourself if the task can be broken down into smaller chunks. For instance, if the task is to clean your office you could divide that into a number of smaller tasks including clean off your desk, clean the floor, and clean the windows.
2 . Add one item to your list per day and limit your work time to 15 minute intervals. Limit your to-do list to one item per day, then limit the amount of time you spend on that task.
Set a timer so that you do not work more than the 15 minutes.
When the timer goes off rest for 15 minutes. After your rest period spend a moment and really consider how you feel.
If you feel that you still have energy continue to work on your task (if you’ve not completed it). If you assess your body and find that you are feeling fatigued. It’s time to stop for the day.
If you feel you have energy to continue, continue with the 15 minute cycles until you find that your body is telling you it is time to rest.
Related: Learning to Listen to Your Body
3 . Increase your time intervals gradually.
Over time you will be able to increase your work intervals, but do this slowly, adding only five minutes at a time, and remember to take breaks to rest for at least 15 minutes, and assess your body.
4 . Celebrate the small accomplishments.
We do many small tasks each day that take our energy that we never give ourselves credit for.
We don’t stop to think about the fact that we loaded the dishwasher as we walked through the kitchen, or that we put away a load of clothes. There are many things that we do automatically and we really don’t think about those.
If you are exercising for even five minutes a day that is an accomplishment. Celebrate these accomplishments by adding them to your to-do list after you’ve done them (and don’t forget to mark them off).
You’ll be amazed at just how much you really are doing each day.
5 . Enjoy interaction.
Using time-based pacing in this way can be helpful for more than just increasing work and exercise activity. You can use this same technique to get out and enjoy time with friends again.
If you find that spending time around others is draining your energy, set a time limit. Even if it’s just 15 minutes it’s 15 minutes more than you would have had before.
By using this pacing method you can slowly increase your time around others, and doing other social and fun activities that you’ve been missing including crafting, playing with your kids, gardening, and others. Just remember to set time limits and take breaks.
Remember that it’s these enjoyable activities that help us reduce stress, which can reduce pain.
Learning to work and pace in this way will allow you to learn how long your body can work before it is ready to stop.
Eventually, you may be able to add more items to your to-do list for a single day; however, there will be days when your energy level will surprise you.
When you wake up and find your energy is low, don’t fight it. Take a rest day and feel confident that by allowing yourself to rest without fighting it you will have more energy tomorrow.
- ABC’s of Bouncing Back From a Flare
- 5 tips for getting through a fibro flare
- How I shorten fibro flares
- 12 ways to pace yourself when you have chronic illness
Friedberg, F., Williams, D. A., & Collinge, W. (2012). Lifestyle-oriented non-pharmacological treatments for fibromyalgia: a clinical overview and applications with home-based technologies. Journal of pain research, 5, 425.