When you're healthy, life is just one giant juggling act, filled with family and job responsibilities, volunteer duties, and social activities. In fact, that may be the way you like it, thank you very much.
But when you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia, learning to pace yourself becomes important. For people accustomed to operating at a frenetic pace, slowing down can involve a major adjustment. It might take time and practice to accept that you can no longer do all that you want to do. But certain strategies can help.
As irresistible as a new challenge may seem, you have to make your health your top priority. When you have fibromyalgia, you have to learn to say no and to do only those things that matter most. You also need to know when to ask for help. Of course, that doesn't mean you have to turn down every offer that comes your way or delegate absolutely everything. But it does mean being more picky about the tasks you do select. Treat your time and energy like money in a bank account — you only have so much, so you have to be careful how you spend it. Here are some good questions to ask yourself:
Is this something I really want to do?
Is this something I can realistically accomplish?
Will taking on this project cause undue stress that could worsen my pain?
Is there something else I can sacrifice if I do this?
How much time will this involve?
Let the answers be your guide. You may find that taking on the project is not as good an idea as you thought and that it could compromise your health.
Most people keep calendars and to-do lists of what's coming up in the days or weeks ahead. For people who have fibromyalgia, plans can help you figure out what you must get done and what can wait. But when you're in the throes of severe pain, it might be hard to plan anything at all. You may not know how you'll feel two weeks from now, when your children want to visit an amusement park, or how you'll feel tomorrow when you're scheduled to give a presentation. Some days, planning to do nothing is a plan unto itself. Here are some tips on how to plan:
Don't overdo it with a lengthy to-do list or a calendar jammed with activities.
Always include time for rest and relaxation in your schedule.
Alternate strenuous activities with less rigorous ones.
Break up big jobs into smaller tasks.
Do things in advance if you can.
Try to always incorporate one pleasurable activity into your day.
Avoid overplanning. It's impossible to predict how you'll feel a week from now, so focus getting through today.
Doing two or more things at once — or multitasking — may lead you to think you're accomplishing more. But studies show that people who multitask are actually losing time when they have to switch from one task to another, especially when the tasks are unfamiliar. Even worse, your ability to do either task is reduced when you try to do two at once. So get in the habit of doing one thing at a time.