If you have had chronic pain very long you know about having “good days” and having “bad days.”
Good days are when our plans run according to our schedule and we happily go about our day checking things off of our list. Bad days generally mean how much the pain gets in the way of daily activities and frustrates our plans.
Multiple bad days in a row can leave you struggling to complete even the simplest of tasks such as daily hygiene. Sometimes bad days can even affect showering and brushing teeth.
So, how do we keep the “bad days” away? It is a really simple idea but sometimes hard to manage for complex reasons individual to each person, but learning to pace yourself is a good tool to start with when living with chronic pain.
Even though I am positive pacing should always be the main tool in everyone’s Chronic Pain SELF-Management Toolbox (free printable below) , I struggle myself with pacing my own activities. And I, like most, pay for it with many days of accomplishing little in the life I want to live.
So, join me in resolving to do better at pacing daily activities because without pacing yourself, the good days can slowly disappear beyond recognition without some thoughtful intervening.
So, let’s think about pacing as a tool in our Chronic Pain Self-Management Toolbox. These types of tools are always available to us and cost nothing. What does it mean to pace yourself if you have chronic pain?
· Effective pacing yourself means that YOU, rather than your pain, decide how your day is planned.
· Effective pacing allows you to accomplish some activities every day instead of one “good” day and multiple “bad” days.
Pacing, in short, is taking a break BEFORE you need it throughout the day.
Becoming aware of our pain and how, when, and what it takes to escalate it to debilitating levels will aide in utilizing pacing as a tool. Here are a few steps to begin pacing your activities as a tool for self-care and self-pain management.
1. First, let’s check-in.
We need to have a plan for our day. A critical part of that plan is checking in with our bodies when we live with pain. Set a timer on your phone to remember to check-in if you get too busy. Or, if you already know 2 hours of sitting is your limit, set a timer for 1 ½ hour to eliminate pain overload. Simply take a break from the activity in some way that relaxes you and set a timer for self-care so you get back to work on your task afterward.
2. Break things down.
Does a job feel completely overwhelming and out of control? If so, breaking up a large job into smaller tasks will help you accomplish your larger goal. Determine your overall goal then break it down. When you have a list to check off activities you will see that you are accomplishing the things you want to do in life. Remember to take breaks between tasks that are relaxing and refreshing.
3. Work slower.
Slow really does win the race for people living with chronic pain. Work at a slower, less intense pace and you will get more done. Be deliberate with your time by investing in a planner. Schedule slower pace time frames with short rests in between.
4. Increase time in small increments.
You can add small increments of time to activities to find your stopping point for optimum feel-good days. When you find you overdo it, go back down to the previous time frame for the activity. You will be running at optimum speed in no time.
5. Change tasks frequently.
Another really overlooked chronic pain self-management tip is to change your task often and use different parts of the body throughout the day. Be creative throughout your day. Do things on your list that require you to sit for a short duration, then change to standing or walking activities, whatever your abilities allow. Remember to take breaks.
TIP: Try not to get in the practice of using your “good days” to play “catch-up” and push yourselves too hard to catch up on all the things you couldn’t do on days when the pain was overwhelming. This can also create a cycle of too much activity and no activity. Beware of this and always pace yourself.
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Changing begins with thinking about what pain is and does in our bodies, not just reacting when the pain is excruciating. Having a reminder of your action plan can help you to be mindful of your daily self-care choices which will, I promise, lead to more “good days” than “bad days.”
I am always available to help you achieve a higher level of well-being and performance in life and work particularly when change is hard. I will help you develop skills and use tools to make sustainable change for the good.
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