Back to Basics: Pacing

Something that I’ve realised lately is that I’m not very good at allocating ‘rest/recovery’ time.

Lately, and perhaps for longer than I have realised, I have been too focused on all the things I have to do rather than how doing them will affect how I am feeling. I seem to have forgotten the most important rule of pacing - “only do on a good day what you can on a bad day”.  I have started to see my ‘good days’ as a chance to get more done than usual, and as a result my ‘bad days’ have become a lot more frequent.

For lack of a technical term, I’m a bit of an ‘anxiety bunny’, meaning that I am stressed and anxious a lot of the time, so I feel myself constantly ‘bounding around’ trying to get everything done. But as is quite obvious now, being in a constant state of stress and anxiety puts you on edge – you don’t relax and you stop listening to what your body may be trying to tell you.

“If you listen to your body when it whispers, you will never have to listen to it scream.” – anonymous.

I feel like my body has been screaming at me at some point almost every day in the last few weeks, and I now have realised that even then there were times when I still didn’t listen.

I keep a symptom diary where I track my activities, symptoms, pain and fatigue levels, stress levels, mood and much more. Going back through that recently I’ve discovered times where for example, I had a 6/10 headache + other symptoms and had been at uni all day, and then taken my dog down the park. Or cleaned my room. Or done something else that had used up energy that I didn’t have. And all I could think was: “why did I do that?”

Looking back over my symptom & activity diary, it seems so obvious that what I needed to do was rest and recover, but at the time it wasn’t. That’s why I believe that keeping track of what you do and how you feel is so important, because sometimes looking back over it subjectively means you pick up things that you wouldn’t otherwise. I have picked up heaps of patterns that I do that are really not helpful – sure they help me get things done, but it just leads to me pushing further and further in the next few days to try and keep up with everything. I stop listening to my body trying to tell me to slow down and I continually to feel the consequences. And the consequences accumulate.

I tend to dislike ‘rest’ time, I feel very restless and unproductive. I really only do it when I can’t function at all (eg. too high fatigue or pain levels), when really what I should be doing is resting even what I feel ok so that I don’t feel worse later.

Something that I have started doing is scheduling rest in my calendar. And I made a rule that that rest is not optional. I am really, really bad at sticking to it though.

So my pledge to myself for the month of March is to be really focused on listening to my body, and scheduling rest / recovery time even when I am feeling ok. I am going back to basics and following the simple rule of “only do on a good day what you can on a bad day.”

And I’m posting this up so that I have to stick to it!