Every health care provider I have seen, has always discussed how important pacing oneself is when dealing with chronic pain, such as the pain we experience with fibromyalgia. Pacing is a technique we can implement when trying to complete tasks in our day to day lives. It requires one to break up a bigger task into smaller tasks to help us complete them. If you are like me, tasks such as cleaning can become very strenuous on us, resulting in, higher pain levels, extreme fatigue, frustration, fibro flare, etc. I often forget to pace myself because I was always the type of person to work at a task until it was completed. As of recent, I have been working on learning to pace myself to avoid a “fibro flare”. Pacing can be a very difficult strategy to follow, as most times on our good days we push ourselves over our limit just to get things done – instead of things sitting unfinished. I’ve personally made this mistake over and over again – then several hours later or the next day think to myself, “Why did I push myself so hard, instead of stopping at my limit?!” or ” If I had only slowed down while cleaning, I could have attended my friend’s birthday party.” Sound familiar? When doctors first mentioned pacing to me, I thought to myself that it would never help me. Now after 3 years of having to live with fibromyalgia and the forever unpredictable symptoms and flares, I have learned how important it really is to pace. Some days pacing works, some days its ineffective – and that is okay.
At the bottom of this blog, there are two PDF files that I found online on other sites that I personally found useful. Please note I did not write or create these documents, but I am sharing them to pass the knowledge along. I hope you too will find these helpful.
I recently saw an article that explains “the spoon theory” and how it relates to pacing. The spoon theory was written and developed by Christine Miserando. She uses this theory to help people understand how to ration their energy reserve and pace themselves to complete tasks or daily activities. I found this theory rather interesting, and it makes complete sense. It is a great way to have a visual perspective right in front of you. Say we each start our day with 12 spoons sitting on the counter. Each task a person completes will decrease our spoon reserve. For example, getting out of bed might decrease by one spoon some days, while other days finding the courage to get out of bed may use two or three spoons up. Miserando’s theory states that if one did not sleep well the night before, a spoon should automatically be eliminated from the reserve before getting out of bed. I personally find getting out of bed extremely difficult when pain levels are high, and fatigue is at an all-time high. A shower may be considered two spoons, cooking a meal and eating may be three spoons, and going to work can be considered four spoons. Once again this is just an example of her theory. Obviously, everyone’s reserve of spoons (in our case energy) will deplete at different rates. Some days for myself just getting out of bed and eating breakfast requires all my energy, while other days my energy reserve lasts until noon and I can accomplish more. As the day goes on, our collection of “spoons decreases” – just like our energy levels. This is where pacing yourself through-out the day can possibly help you extend your energy to complete more tasks. Even though the tasks may seem to take longer to complete, you may be able to complete more in one day with pacing. Remember, pacing takes practice and patience. It may be difficult at the start, but the more you pace, the more efficiently you may be able to get things done without setting yourself into intense pain levels and possibly causing a fibromyalgia flare to take place. How will you use your spoons?